Summer 2023

Chock-full of fantastic features and stunning photographs. You'll find inspiring, entertaining & informative destination features - French Riviera, Provence, Loire Valley, Mont-Saint-Michel, Alpine villages and secret places, recipes from French foodie legends, culture and history and much, much more... Bringing France to you wherever you are!

Chock-full of fantastic features and stunning photographs. You'll find inspiring, entertaining & informative destination features - French Riviera, Provence, Loire Valley, Mont-Saint-Michel, Alpine villages and secret places, recipes from French foodie legends, culture and history and much, much more... Bringing France to you wherever you are!


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The<br />

Good Life France<br />

ISSUE Nọ 34<br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

Romantic<br />

& Medieval<br />

wonders of<br />

France<br />

Historic castles & pickled<br />

in the past villages<br />

Magazine<br />

Vallée de la<br />

Gastronomie<br />

620km foodie route<br />

from north to south<br />

Mont Saint-<br />

Michel<br />

Celebrates 1000 years<br />

of history<br />

Car-free & captivating<br />


Normandy’s<br />

Cheese & Cider Country<br />

Delicious recipes<br />

Bringing you a taste<br />

of France…<br />

120 pages<br />

of inspirational<br />

features and<br />

gorgeous photos

Bienvenue<br />

chalet villa château farmhouse apartment vineyard gîte cottage coast country city<br />


Calling Nature Lovers !<br />

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property with barns, on 7 acres of land.<br />

5% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Energy class: D Climate class: D<br />


Authentic Charm<br />

Paris €775,000<br />

Ref: A19256 - 1-bedroom duplex on the<br />

top floor of a 19th century building.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: E Climate class: D<br />


Riverfront Property<br />

Dordogne €524,700<br />

Ref: A21371 - Attractive 4-bedroom<br />

property with independent apartment.<br />

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

DPE: In progress<br />

Our latest properties for sale in France<br />


Needs Some TLC<br />

Manche €178,200<br />

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property to spruce up, with outbuildings.<br />

8% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Energy class: F Climate class: F<br />


Beautiful Volumes<br />

Haute-Garonne €365,000<br />

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tastefully renovated.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: C Climate class: C<br />


Rural Retreat<br />

Charente €199,800<br />

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with enclosed garden in a quiet location.<br />

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Energy class: D Climate class: B<br />


Provençal Villa<br />

Bouches-du-Rhône €832,000<br />

Ref: A12611 - Lovely 4-bedroom villa<br />

with garden, swimming pool and garage.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: D Climate class: B<br />


Stunning Views !<br />

Gers €237,000<br />

Ref: A21358 - Pretty 3-bedroom villa<br />

with in-ground pool and panoramic views.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

DPE: In progress<br />


Rare Find !<br />

Morbihan €176,550<br />

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Energy class: D Climate class: B<br />

Start your property search today!<br />

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Information on the risks to which these properties are exposed is available on the Geohazards website:<br />

www.georisques .gouv.fr<br />

Bonjour and bienvenue to The Good Life France Magazine.<br />

I’m thrilled to share this beautiful summer issue with you – it’s<br />

brimming with fabulous features and fantastic photos, guides,<br />

culture, history, recipes and much, much more.<br />

Take a trek around France via the Vallée de la Gastronomie,<br />

a designated route which winds its way from delicious Dijon<br />

in Burgundy to mouth-watering Marseille in the south and<br />

honours the rich, authentic and utterly delectable heritage of<br />

French food from field to plate.<br />

Discover some of the most romantic sites and medieval<br />

gems of France within easy distance of Paris. Va va voom<br />

to Vaucluse – but not by car as we show you how to visit<br />

Provence without four wheels! Head to cheese and cider<br />

country and nibble your way around Normandy, and soak up<br />

the vivid colours and vibrant culture of French Basque country.<br />

Find out how to spend a perfect weekend in historic Tours in<br />

the Loire Valley and go off the beaten track to exquisite Saint-<br />

Cirq-LaPopie in the Lot, one of the most beautiful villages<br />

in France, and Le Grand Bornand in the French Alps – the<br />

perfect place for an outdoor summer break.<br />

Check out the châteaus including fabulous Fontainebleau<br />

and picturesque Pierrefonds. And celebrate 1000 years of the<br />

abbey of Mont-Saint-Michel, one of the wonders of the world.<br />

Ever wondered how to get that perfect shade of French blue<br />

you see on doors and shutters all over France? Read on as we<br />

explain all. We shine a spotlight on lovely Mayenne and the<br />

beautiful Languedoc-Roussillon department in Occitainie,<br />

plus a look at the history of chocolate in France and some<br />

truly scrumptious recipes for you to enjoy a taste of France at<br />

home. And there’s heaps more.<br />

If you’re not a subscriber, hop on to page 4 and subscribe –<br />

totally for free, and please do share this issue with your friends,<br />

that’s free too!<br />

I wish you a very happy summer and hope you enjoy this issue.<br />

Bisous from my little corner of rural France.<br />

Janine<br />

Janine Marsh<br />

Editor<br />

Follow us on Twitter,<br />

Instagram & Facebook<br />

The Good Life France | 3

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

To Subscribe to<br />





The Good Life France Magazine<br />

No. 34 <strong>Summer</strong> <strong>2023</strong><br />

ISSN 2754-6799<br />

The magazine is free to read, download and share<br />

Contributors<br />

5<br />


8 Five romantic gems of France<br />

Historic castles and picturesque<br />

villages near Paris…<br />

Gillian Thornton is an<br />

award-winning travel<br />

writer and member<br />

of the British Guild<br />

of Travel Writers,<br />

specialising in French<br />

destinations and<br />

lifestyle. Her favourite<br />

place? ‘Usually where I<br />

have just been!’<br />

The<br />

Good Life France<br />

ISSUE Nọ 34<br />

Romantic<br />

& Medieval<br />

wonders of<br />

France<br />

Historic castles & pickled<br />

in the past villages<br />

Vallée de la<br />

Gastronomie<br />

620km foodie route<br />

from north to south<br />

Mont Saint-<br />

Michel<br />

Celebrates 1000 years<br />

of history<br />

Car-free & captivating<br />


Normandy’s<br />

Cheese & Cider Country<br />

Delicious recipes<br />

Bringing you a taste<br />

of France…<br />

Ally Mitchell is a<br />

blogger and freelance<br />

writer, specialising in<br />

food and recipes. Ally<br />

left the UK to live in<br />

Toulouse in 2021 and<br />

now writes about her<br />

new life in France on<br />

her food blog<br />

NigellaEatsEverything<br />

Magazine<br />

FREE<br />

120 pages<br />

of inspirational<br />

features and<br />

gorgeous photos<br />

Jeremy Flint is<br />

an award-winning<br />

photographer<br />

(Association of<br />

Photographers<br />

Discovery Award<br />

Winner, National<br />

Geographic Traveller<br />

Grand Prize Winner,<br />

five-times finalist<br />

Travel Photographer<br />

of the Year) and writer<br />

specialising in travel,<br />

landscape and location<br />

photography.<br />

Sue Aran is a writer,<br />

photographer, and<br />

tour guide living in the<br />

Gers department of<br />

southwest France. She<br />

is the owner of French<br />

Country Adventures,<br />

which provides<br />

personally-guided,<br />

small-group, slow travel<br />

tours into Gascony, the<br />

Pays Basque, Provence<br />

and beyond.<br />

The Good Life France Magazine<br />

Aaron James is<br />

travelling around the<br />

south of France whilst<br />

on a Year Abroad from<br />

Oxford University,<br />

exploring and writing as<br />

he goes.<br />

Front Cover: Menton, French Riviera by Marianne Furnes: Instagram<br />

Editor-in-chief: Janine Marsh<br />

Editorial assistant: Trudy Watkins<br />

Press enquiries: editor (at) the Good Life France.com<br />

Advertising: sales (at) the Good Life France.com<br />

Digital support: websitesthatwork.com<br />

Layout design: Philippa French littlefrogdesign.co.uk<br />

ISSN 2754-6799 Issue 34 <strong>Summer</strong> <strong>2023</strong>, released June <strong>2023</strong><br />

16<br />

72<br />

16 Car-free & captivating<br />

Provence<br />

Picture-perfect Provence by<br />

public transport.<br />

22 The Vallée de la Gastronomie<br />

Janine Marsh takes a 620km<br />

gastronomic odyssey of France.<br />

46 Cheese & Cider country<br />

in Normandy<br />

Gillian Thornton samples<br />

and sips her way through the<br />

Norman countryside.<br />

72 Mont-Saint-Michel<br />

1000 years of history at the<br />

famous Abbey at the top of an<br />

island.<br />


34 French Basque Country<br />

Gillian Thornton soaks up the<br />

vivid colours and vibrant culture<br />

of this sunny corner of France.<br />

4 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 5

56<br />

88<br />

41 Le Weekend in the<br />

Loire Valley<br />

Janine Marsh falls for the<br />

allure of the Loire Valley, the<br />

former royal playground of<br />

France’s Kings and Queens.<br />

52 Saint-Cirq-Lapopie<br />

The ‘pearl of the Lot Valley’<br />

a wondrous, cliffhanging<br />

beauty of a village in the<br />

Lot… by Sue Aran and Janine<br />

Marsh.<br />

56 Hidden Gem –<br />

Le Grand Bornand<br />

An exquisite alpine village in<br />

Haute-Savoie<br />

62 Taste of France: Chocolate<br />

Alison Mitchell investigates<br />

the mild obsession with<br />

chocolate that the<br />

French have!<br />

102<br />


90 What’s New<br />

All the news and events you need<br />

for your next trip to France.<br />

118 Last word<br />

Life in Rural France – making<br />

a home.<br />

GUIDES<br />

94 Living and working in France<br />

Top tips for those dreaming<br />

or planning to move to<br />

France and work from visas to<br />

microentrepreneurs.<br />

102 Languedoc Rousillon<br />

Joanna Leggett explores the<br />

culture, history and lifestyle of<br />

sunny Languedoc-Roussillon.<br />

108 Destination Mayenne<br />

Discover a tranquil land of<br />

rivers, forests and laid-back<br />

villages.<br />

68 Heavenly Hyères<br />

Aaron James says this Belle<br />

Epoque town on the French<br />

Riviera has it all!<br />

78 The Chateau of<br />

Pierrefonds<br />

Gillian Thornton explores<br />

a medieval fantasy castle<br />

in Picardy.<br />

84 How to French Country<br />

Sara Silm shares how to find<br />

the perfect shade of French<br />

blues and greens.<br />


113 Fougasse with goats cheese<br />

More-ish and delicious French<br />

flatbread with fromage by Paris<br />

master baker Éric Kayser.<br />

114 Braided brioche<br />

Irresistible sweet plaited brioche<br />

by Paris master baker<br />

Éric Kayser.<br />

116 Scallop & vegetable balloons<br />

Scrumptious little ‘hot air<br />

balloons’ of deliciousness by<br />

Ferrandi Paris.<br />


88 Your photos<br />

Featuring the most beautiful<br />

photos shared on our<br />

Facebook page.<br />

113<br />

4 Subscribe to The Good Life<br />

France Magazine<br />

Everything you want to know<br />

about France and more -<br />

subscription is totally free.<br />

6 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 7

e<br />

France is brimming with romantic villages<br />

and castles and medieval gems that have<br />

somehow managed to withstand the passing<br />

of time. Janine Marsh joined a barge cruise<br />

from Sens in Burgundy to the heart of Paris<br />

and visited some of the most ravishing sites of<br />

France en route…<br />

I have to be honest, I didn’t know much (ok<br />

nothing) about Sens in Burgundy, but this was<br />

my starting point for a CroisiEurope cruise<br />

to Paris on a beautiful barge called the MS<br />

Deborah. Sens is incredibly just an hour from<br />

Paris by train, but oh so different from the<br />

capital. It’s a sleepy sort of place on the edge<br />

of the Yonne River, an important waterway<br />

since the middle ages when boats carried<br />

Burgundy wines and wood from the forests to<br />

Paris as the Yonne flows into the Seine.<br />

Sens isn’t a big tourist attraction, but it is a pretty<br />

little town and is known in France for two things.<br />

First, its ancient cathedral which is even older<br />

than Notre-Dame in Paris, begun in 1130 AD.<br />

And second, it was from here that the warrior<br />

Brennus, chieftain of the Gallic Senon tribe,<br />

departed for Rome – and conquered it around<br />

390 BC. The Gauls only left after being paid off.<br />

Sens was an important religious centre since the<br />

3rd century, and its Cathedral was the first to<br />

feature vaulting in its design and is considered to<br />

be the very first of the great Gothic Cathedrals<br />

in France. Opposite the Cathedral is a lovely<br />

covered market, and there is a museum next to<br />

the Cathedral which has an eclectic collection<br />

including the hat Napoleon Bonaparte wore<br />

at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815. Apparently<br />

it was damaged by rain so he gave it to his<br />

hatmakers in Paris to repair, but was exiled to<br />

St. Helena before he got it back.<br />

Medieval marvel Provins<br />

This is cruising at its slow tourism best. The<br />

boat holds just 22 passengers, and everything<br />

is inclusive from food to wine and spirits, plus<br />

all excursions. The Yonne is a working river,<br />

we passed pleasure ships and cargo barges<br />

The MS Deborah<br />

Vaux-le-Vicomte<br />

8 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 9

Fabulous Fontainebleau<br />

Onwards we sailed, past a pair of courting<br />

black swans and fishermen sitting patiently<br />

on pontoons, and yet, we’re only 55kms from<br />

Paris. Our next stop was the magnificent<br />

Chateau of Fontainebleau. If walls could talk<br />

then those at this enormous castle of some<br />

1500 rooms would have plenty to say.<br />

Collegiale Saint-Quiriace © Provins Cheyenne<br />

and watched silos filling bulky holds with a<br />

backdrop of pretty villages, vineyards, and<br />

lovely houses that sit at the edge of the river.<br />

Wild birds swoop overhead, and swans glided<br />

regally as we floated gently and admired<br />

the glorious countryside, and sometimes we<br />





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stopped at locks and watched the action from<br />

the sun deck, sipping the cocktail of the day.<br />

The fabulous food and wine and the relaxed<br />

ambiance soothe your soul. By day three you<br />

won’t remember what day it I, and you won’t<br />

care either, it’s totally relaxing.<br />

The Good Life<br />

France podcast<br />

Everything you want to know about<br />

France and more...<br />

thegoodlifefrance.com<br />

Chef Jonathan with dessert<br />

We docked at the lovely medieval town of<br />

Moret-sur-Loing, a designated “remarkable<br />

heritage site” and “Destination Impressionism”,<br />

a favourite of painter Alfred Sisley who lived<br />

here for 20 years. I was torn between taking<br />

a bike from the boat to cycle in the local<br />

countryside and discover the Chateau de By,<br />

once the home of painter Rosa Bonheur, but I<br />

went for a tour of Provins instead. All the guides<br />

for trips speak both French and English.<br />

Provins in the department of Ile de France,<br />

is one of those places that you think simply<br />

can’t exist – but it does. This fortified town is a<br />

UNESCO World Heritage Site, once under the<br />

rule of the powerful Counts of Champagne.<br />

Its cobbled, flower-filled streets and medieval<br />

buildings cover a huge area and there’s a lot<br />

to see from towers and turrets to ramparts,<br />

dungeons and underground tunnels. Once a<br />

hugely important commercial centre, goods<br />

came from around the world to be sold at one<br />

of the town’s famous grand fairs which lasted<br />

for weeks. There’s also a fabulous rose garden<br />

and shop/tea shop where everything comes<br />

up roses from sweets to ice cream!<br />

Famous staircase of Fontainebleau<br />

This castle is 500 years older than Versailles.<br />

The original chapel was consecrated by<br />

Thomas Becket (whose secretary incidentally<br />

lived for several years in Sens), AKA Saint<br />

Thomas of Canterbury and Thomas à Becket.<br />

This is the only royal and imperial chateau in<br />

France that was continuously inhabited for<br />

eight centuries. From the 12th Century, what<br />

was a royal hunting lodge in a vast forest<br />

was renovated, extended and embellished<br />

by various Kings, Queens Emperors and<br />

Empresses until it became the extraordinary,<br />

enormous castle you see before you.<br />

10 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 11

It’s chock-a-block full of tapestries, frescoes,<br />

paintings, and carvings – opulently furnished,<br />

truly dazzling. Napoleon Bonaparte lorded it<br />

up at this chateau, saying it was his favourite<br />

above all others. He commissioned a team of<br />

builders and gilders to bling it up and make<br />

it more to his taste. And it was from that<br />

horseshoe shaped staircase that he bade<br />

farewell to his guides before going into exile<br />

(and leaving his hat behind).<br />

Here King Francois I of France hung the<br />

Mona Lisa over his bathtub, Louis XIV fed the<br />

giant carp in the pond and Marie-Antoinette<br />

commissioned a gorgeous bed for her pretty<br />

boudoir, though she never laid her head there,<br />

she lost it in Paris instead. She did though<br />

recreate what she loved about this countryside<br />

Paris at her hamlet in Versailles.<br />

Fontainebleau - Napoleon's library<br />

Detail on the wall of the ballroom at Fontainebleau<br />

Glorious Fontainebleau<br />

Bucolic<br />

Barbizon<br />

For a complete contrast we<br />

next headed to Barbizon, a<br />

little village on the edge of<br />

the Forest of Fontainebleau.<br />

Once a tiny hamlet (it was<br />

upgraded to village status<br />

in 1903), a colony of artists<br />

formed here in the early<br />

1800s. There was then a tiny<br />

grocery shop and artists on<br />

their way from Paris to Fontainebleau would<br />

stop to buy supplies and noted how beautiful<br />

the scenery was. They started to linger longer,<br />

enraptured by the beauty of the countryside<br />

and rural life, and the canny shop owner<br />

converted the shop to an inn which became<br />

the Hotel Ganne. Then the artists stayed<br />

longer and more and more came, Rousseau,<br />

Millet, Díaz de la Peña. They were the<br />

precursor that led to impressionism and Monet<br />

and Renoir themselves also visited – but they<br />

wanted bigger landscapes – cities and coasts.<br />

The artists left Barbizon. They also left their<br />

mark. The Hotel Ganne is now a museum,<br />

where the furniture and walls are covered<br />

Barbizon<br />

with the etches and sketches of the artists<br />

who stayed here. Caricatures, saints, fairies,<br />

soldiers, whatever inspired them – they left a<br />

little of their work and soul behind.<br />

The town is pickled in the past and very lovely.<br />

It continues to attract artists and the shops,<br />

bars and restaurants look like set pieces from<br />

your dream of a French village.<br />

Pickled in the past<br />

Vaux-le-Vicomte<br />

Next up is the ravishing castle of Vaux-le-<br />

Vicomte, one of the largest privately owned<br />

residences in France with gorgeous gardens.<br />

Commissioned by Nicolas Fouquet, Louis<br />

XIV’s minister of finance it was almost<br />

completed in 1661 but Fouquet invited the<br />

boss to visit and that was his undoing. It was so<br />

beautiful that Louis was enraged with jealousy,<br />

Hotel Ganne Barbizon<br />

12 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 13

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Paris - dancing on the quayside on a sunny afternoon<br />

Vaux-le-Vicomte – art de vivre was important here<br />

and, egged on by other scheming ministers,<br />

he had Fouquet thrown into prison, where<br />

the unfortunate minister died in 1680. Louis<br />

had the furnishings, ornaments and even the<br />

curtains and plants put in his own castles and<br />

then hired the team who created Vaux-le-<br />

Vicomte, to work on Versailles. Moral – never<br />

upstage a king.<br />

Picture-perfect Paris<br />

From here we cruised to Paris, the riverbank<br />

villages giving way to warehouses, apartment<br />

blocks, restaurants, and office buildings. The<br />

sounds of the city filtered through the air<br />

coupled with the sounds of music as people<br />

tango’d and cha cha cha’d on the quaysides, or<br />

lazed in the sun, going about the life of a city.<br />

Meanwhile on the barge it remained tranquil.<br />

We passed under historic bridges and dock<br />

between the Statue of Liberty on the little manmade<br />

island called Île aux Cygnes, facing its<br />

big sister in New York, and the Eiffel Tower.<br />

That night we had a gala dinner as the<br />

Eiffel Tower sparkled nearby and we bid<br />

farewell to new friends. We were joined by<br />

an accordionist and Edith Piaf tribute singer;<br />

the haunting sounds carried across the water<br />

and drew a small crowd on the quayside as<br />

the sun set and metro train purred over the Bir<br />

Hakeim Bridge – a perfect snapshot of Paris<br />

and the perfect way to end a most fabulous<br />

barge cruise in the world’s most popular city. I<br />

looked at my fellow bargers as the words “j’ai<br />

deux amours” rang out, it’s clear they were as<br />

enchanted as I was.<br />

Find out more about CroisiEurope’s cruise<br />

experiences of France: croisieurope.co.uk<br />

Europe’s largest river<br />

cruise line<br />



47 years’ experience<br />

and more than 50 ships<br />

Burgundy & Provence<br />

along the Saône and Rhône rivers<br />


7-Night Fly-Cruise package from £ 1,314 (2) per person<br />

<strong>2023</strong> Departures: June & July<br />

Superb<br />

French cuisine<br />

The Loire<br />

a Royal Legacy<br />

ANGERS<br />

5-Night Fly-Cruise package from £ 1,443 (3) per person<br />

<strong>2023</strong> Departures: June & July<br />

For our full range of special offers visit our website<br />

www.croisieurope.co.uk<br />

INFORMATION AND RESERVATIONS: Tel. 01756 691 269 • sales@croisieurope.co.uk<br />

(1) On majority of departures on French rivers. (2) Flights based on LGW-LYS with Easyjet and private airport-ship transfers. (3) Flights based on LGW-NTE with Easyjet and private airport-ship transfers.<br />

All prices and offers are based on two adults sharing a cabin, category C, are correct at time of going to press, subject to availability, apply to new bookings only, cannot be applied retrospectively and can be<br />

withdrawn at any time. Terms and conditions apply. All the flight-inclusive holidays are financially protected by the ATOL scheme. When you pay you will be supplied with an ATOL Certificate. Please ask for it and<br />

check to ensure that everything you booked (flights, cruise, hotels and other services) is listed on it. CroisiEurope UK Ltd partners with Blue Water Holidays Ltd for ATOL protection. Blue Water Holidays is a company<br />

registered in England and Wales, number 4085664. Registered Office: Bowers Wharf, Skipton, North Yorkshire, BD23 2PD. - IM067100025. Non-contractual photos - Copyrights: CroisiEurope, Shutterstock.<br />


All inclusive for drinks<br />

onboard (1)<br />

14 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 15

Charles de Gaulle Airport, plus it’s only 7.5<br />

hours from London by train!<br />

Avignon TGV (fast trains) station is on the<br />

outskirts of the city and connects via local<br />

trains (TER) directly into the city where the<br />

station is a short walk to the Popes Palace.<br />

Avignon © A Hocquel, Vaucluse Tourism<br />


week-end<br />

in Provence…<br />

Discover the beauty, culture, museums, monuments, and gastronomy of Provence –<br />

without a car, says Janine Marsh<br />

I’m often asked if it’s possible to visit Provence<br />

without a car and still see the wonderful sights<br />

and sites – and the answer is yes! Absolutely.<br />

When it comes to exploring historic cities and<br />

lovely villages, here’s how to do it by public<br />

transport. And, whilst the lavender fields are<br />

in the middle of countryside, far away from<br />

train stations and bus stops, you can visit<br />

them by bike or take a half day or day trip<br />

with a tour company.<br />

Avignon, the capital of Vaucluse in the heart<br />

of Provence, makes for a great base, and it’s<br />

easy to get to by train with direct connections<br />

by TGV (fast train) to Paris, Marseille and<br />

Avignon<br />

The historic city of Avignon, surrounded by<br />

medieval ramparts, is small enough to easily<br />

walk around. Apart from its bridge, “Sur le<br />

Pont d’Avignon, L’on y danse, l’on y danse…”,<br />

it’s perhaps most famous for its monumental<br />

and wonderfully preserved 14th century<br />

Palais des Papes (both are UNESCO<br />

World Heritage sites along with several<br />

other sites).<br />

Explore the historic buildings, museums and<br />

picturesque streets and squares. Stroll along<br />

the photogenic rue des Teinturiers, rue<br />

Peyrolerie, place des Corps Saints, place<br />

Saint Didier and place de l’Horloge – in all<br />

these cobbled streets and squares you’ll<br />

find fabulous bars and restaurants, shaded<br />

by plane trees, hidden in courtyards and<br />

alongside streams – perfect for a taste of<br />

delicious Provencal cuisine.<br />

Whilst you might not want to leave this<br />

lovely city, there’s a lot to see and do within<br />

easy travelling distance.<br />

Villeneuve-sur-Avignon<br />

Across the river Rhône which skirts<br />

Avignon, Villeneuve-sur-Avignon is truly<br />

beautiful – a place that most visitors to<br />

Avignon never discover. The garden of the<br />

Abbey Saint André, perched on a hill, has<br />

a tranquil ambiance with wonderful views.<br />

The 17th/18th century abbey, a national<br />

Heritage Site, is where 6th century Saint<br />

Casarie once lived, she chose the hilltop<br />

above the abbey as a place of prayer and<br />

meditation. It’s an easy journey on line 5 of<br />

the Orizo network, taking just 11 minutes.<br />

16 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 17

Or see the village from a boat. The Grands<br />

Bateaux de Provence enable you to discover<br />

the most beautiful sights of Avignon and<br />

Villeneuve-sur-Avignon from the Rhone river;<br />

or, push the boat out on a discovery cruise that<br />

includes lunch or dinner.<br />

Orange<br />

Take a 20-minute train ride to Orange and<br />

then walk 1km to the city centre (or take a<br />

bus from outside the station) to discover the<br />

extraordinary Roman theatre, a UNESCO<br />

World Heritage site.<br />

Once the theatre hosted 10,000 Romans,<br />

incredibly its famous wall still stands, one of<br />

the best preserved in the world. Close by is a<br />

majestic triumphal arch, and don’t miss the<br />

Museum of Art and History, which houses<br />

mosaics, cadastral maps, ancient remains and<br />

artefacts. The town itself is enchanting, bijou<br />

boutiques, bars and brasseries will tempt you<br />

to linger.<br />

Villeneuve-sur-Avignon © A Hocquel Vaucluse Tourism<br />

Wine is part of the culture of Provence, and<br />

in Chateauneuf-du-Pape life revolves around<br />

the wine. The hilltop town rises like a ship<br />

amongst a sea of grapevines, topped by the<br />

ruins of a castle built by those 14th century<br />

popes to be their summer holiday home. It was<br />

the popes who first planted the vines here.<br />

And they chose well. The terroir, that French<br />

word that’s so hard to translate which refers<br />

to the conditions the vines grow in, makes<br />

for the most superb wines to this day. There’s<br />

plenty of opportunity to taste them in the town<br />

with a cellar or shop every few metres. Stroll<br />

the historic street, climb the hill to the ruined<br />

castle from which you have spectacular views<br />

and walk the marked circuit from the village<br />

through the vineyards.<br />

As you might expect, it’s not easy to plonk a<br />

train station and tracks down in the middle of<br />

vineyards, so take a bus from Avignon to the<br />

town, visit by bike which takes about an hour,<br />

or take a tour (ask at Avignon tourist office<br />

for details).<br />

L’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue<br />

Carpentras<br />

It’s around 30 minutes by train from Avignon<br />

to l’Isle-sur-la-Sorgue and the train station is<br />

in the town so it’s a short walk to anywhere.<br />

This former fishing village has a laid-back<br />

charm, with water wheels along its canals,<br />

pretty houses and fabulous shops. Its fame<br />

is worldwide due to the many, many antique<br />

shops and annual antique fairs. This town is<br />

the number one antique centre of southern<br />

France, and third in Europe.<br />

Fontaine-de-Vaucluse, the source of the water<br />

that feeds the canals and river in l’Isle-sur-la-<br />

Sorgue, is close by and well worth a detour.<br />

Take Zou line 21 (8 July to 31 August), or rent a<br />

bike (7.5 km).<br />

Chateauneuf du Pape<br />

Provence is famous for its superb wines and<br />

Chateauneuf-du-Pape is where some of the<br />

finest wines in the world are produced.<br />

View of Orange theatre from the top of the wall<br />

Isle sur la Sorgue © Marianne Furnes<br />

A 30-minute train ride brings you to<br />

Carpentras at the foot of Mont Ventoux. This<br />

small city has a rather exotic feel, almost<br />

Roman with a jumble of terracotta roofs atop<br />

the higgledy-piggledy houses. The Romans<br />

were in fact here, and though there are few<br />

remains, traces of the city’s ancient history is<br />

everywhere you look.<br />

In 1313 Pope Clement V took up residence in<br />

Carpentras. His successor moved the Papal<br />

Court to Avignon before it was re-established<br />

decades later in Rome. Carpentras was the<br />

capital of what’s known as Comtat-Venaissin,<br />

territory which belonged at one time to<br />

the Counts of Provence, at another to the<br />

Catholic Church, and didn’t become French<br />

until 1791.<br />

One of the legacies of the French Popes in<br />

Carpentras is the Synagogue, created in<br />

1367. The Jewish community, expelled from<br />

France, was welcomed into Papal territory.<br />

18 | The Good Life France Chateauneuf du Pape © A Hocquel, Vaucluse Tourism<br />

The Good Life France | 19

Carpentas © A Hocquel, Vaucluse Tourism<br />

The synagogue is one of the oldest still active<br />

synagogues in Europe. Plus discover the Judaica<br />

Collection, an incredible assembly of ancient<br />

books, paintings and sculptures at Inguimbertine,<br />

the only library-museum in France.<br />

Carpentras’ Friday morning market is one of<br />

the best in France. Some 350 stalls snake their<br />

way along a warren of streets and plane tree<br />

shaded squares. You’ll find everything from<br />

clothes to baskets, shoes to cakes, fruit, veg,<br />

truffles, olives marinated a dozen different<br />

ways, pungent herbs, tangy cheese, aromatic<br />

lavender and mouth-watering street food.<br />

And if you're there on a Sunday morning,<br />

enjoy the flea market under the plane trees in<br />

the centre of town. Around 180 stalls set up at<br />

the Parking des Platanes.<br />

Carpentras is famous for its berlingot<br />

bonbons, hard, translucent, striped, multiflavoured,<br />

multi-coloured boiled sweets in<br />

a tetrahedron shape. You can watch these<br />

delicious little treats being made at the<br />

Confiserie du Mont Ventoux.<br />

Detours<br />

Want to explore further? From Avignon you<br />

can take a train to many southern French<br />

Lavender fields<br />

must-sees, including Nîmes, Montpellier,<br />

Marseille and Arles, or a bus to the centre of<br />

Aix-en-Provence.<br />

Detailed itinerary for car<br />

free Provence<br />

It’s very easy to discover Provence without a<br />

car, you’ll find a fabulous several day itinerary<br />

to visit Vaucluse and it’s prettiest villages here:<br />

provence guide.co.uk/routes<br />

Useful information<br />

Note: you can take bikes on TER trains (but<br />

not TGV).<br />

Avignon Tourist Office can recommend<br />

tours of the lavender fields as well as guided<br />

tours of Avignon (address: 41 Cr Jean<br />

Jaurès, 5 minutes from the train station)<br />

Guide to Hiking in Provence<br />

Guide to biking in Provence<br />

Find details of what to see and do in<br />

Vaucluse, plus transport details here:<br />

provenceguide<br />

20 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 21

©Vallée de la Gastronomie – France ® / Seense<br />

The Vallee de la<br />

Gastronomie<br />

Janine Marsh undertakes a gastronomic odyssey of France…<br />

The Vallee de la Gastronomie ® is a unique<br />

route dedicated to food and wine. It straddles<br />

three major regions of France from the<br />

north to the south: Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes,<br />

Bourgogne-Franche-Comté and Provence-<br />

Alpes-Côte d’Azur.<br />

It’s a path that follows a thousand-yearold<br />

trade route and which now celebrates<br />

passionate producers of the food world from<br />

farmers and wine makers to chefs and all<br />

involved in the production, processing and<br />

traditions that make the rich heritage of<br />

French gastronomy so incredible. It is the king<br />

of gourmet routes, running for an astonishing<br />

620km through France. Along the way it is<br />

liberally peppered with the most delicious and<br />

authentic producers, a mind-boggling 452<br />

who have signed up to offer a special welcome<br />

to visitors (usually in English as well as French),<br />

offering guided tours, sensational tastings and<br />

mouth-watering experiences.<br />

Whilst this gastronomic journey is perfect for<br />

a road trip, you don’t need a car, you can go<br />

from town to town by train and bus as I did,<br />

stopping off to meet with artisans, farmers<br />

and chefs, indulge at the most fabulous<br />

restaurants and explore gorgeous villages and<br />

historic cities.<br />

The Vallée de la Gastronomie website makes<br />

it super easy to find out more about these<br />

remarkable experiences.<br />

A tasty trek<br />

The Vallée de la Gastronomie broadly follows<br />

the path of the mighty Rhône River between<br />

vineyards and ancient towns, from Burgundy<br />

to the Mediterranean Sea. The climate and<br />

landscape differ hugely from place to place,<br />

and each area has its savoir-fair, it’s know-<br />

Marseille © Peter Jones<br />

how, specialities and rich culinary history. The<br />

Phoenicians founded Marseille and introduced<br />

vines to France, Roman winemaking was<br />

intensive along the Rhône Valley, in the 14th<br />

century the Dukes of Burgundy planted Pinot<br />

Noir grapes in Burgundy and the Popes of<br />

Avignon in Provence planted yet more vines.<br />

Meanwhile, the ‘gastronomic meal of the<br />

French’ is listed on the UNESCO world<br />

heritage list reflecting the exceptional<br />

standard of French cuisine. Every region has<br />

its own cuisine and specialities based on<br />

local products, Bresse chickens of Burgundy,<br />

bouillabaisse of Marseille, the black rice of the<br />

Camargue – the list is endless. And along the<br />

route of the Vallée de la Gastronomie, you’ll<br />

discover the culinary diversity of French food<br />

at its very best.<br />

22 | The Good Life France Marseille<br />

The Good Life France | 23

And though this route celebrates the historic<br />

tasty treasures of France, it also honours<br />

a constantly evolving gastronomic scene,<br />

innovative chefs and ardent artisans. To be<br />

included on the list requires the offering of a<br />

‘remarkable experience’ to visitors, and every<br />

applicant is carefully vetted before acceptance.<br />

What was most remarkable to me was<br />

how I discovered that everyone involved in<br />

gastronomy was fervent about supporting<br />

local producers, protecting traditions and<br />

practicing art de vivre, the art of living well, but<br />

also being innovative in creating food, being<br />

organic, recycling and respecting the land and<br />

the people who work on it. It was an ethos I<br />

encountered over and over, almost a movement<br />

that is people led – and people supported.<br />

Frankly, I could write a book about my journey<br />

but there isn’t room! At the centre of the trail<br />

is Lyon, AKA the foodie capital of France, and<br />

to the south of it, like a string of pearls, are a<br />

plethora of towns and cities that pack a big<br />

food and wine punch. Here is a tasty teaser of<br />

Aix-en-Provence<br />

what I discovered on my epicurean voyage of<br />

France in the southern half of the Vallée de la<br />

Gastronomie (the northern half will be in the<br />

Autumn <strong>2023</strong> magazine.<br />

Aix-en-Provence<br />

The sun-kissed cultural, cosmopolitan and<br />

elegant city of Aix is the Paris of Provence.<br />

Cut in half by the Cours Mirabeau – an<br />

avenue of stately mansions and bustling<br />

restaurants which separates the renaissance<br />

and medieval quarters, Aix is brimming with<br />

museums and art galleries, boutiques and<br />

a fabulous market, sunny terraces and<br />

tinkling fountains.<br />

Chocolate heaven<br />

Who doesn’t love a tour of a chocolate<br />

workshop?! At Chocolaterie de Puyricard,<br />

a film, tour and tasting (available in English<br />

– book in advance), will satisfy your inner<br />

24 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 25

Willy Wonka and then some. “Butter from<br />

Charente, cream from Alsace, almonds<br />

and candied fruit from Provence...” says the<br />

guide as I watch the magical transformation<br />

of these delicious ingredients turned into<br />

chocolate, calissons, ice cream and sweets.<br />

French people eat 7-12 kg of chocolate a<br />

year – I’m only surprised it’s not more when<br />

it’s this good. They also host workshops.<br />

Forget night in a museum, I’m dreaming of<br />

night in a chocolate factory!<br />

The Goat lady<br />

Cheese lovers will adore the Ferme du<br />

Brégalon. When I visited, Anais Girard, the<br />

goat lady, was surrounded by baby goats<br />

bleating and wanting cuddles or maybe to<br />

hear her play the piano she keeps in the barn<br />

“they love music as much as me” she says.<br />

The farm is in a lovely, tranquil location,<br />

perfect for picnics, about 20km from the<br />

city and Anais and her husband also breed<br />

goats for sale “we go on holidays at places<br />

where our goats are” she laughs, happiness<br />

is definitely goat shaped here. Production<br />

is organic, manual and carried out with<br />

love. You can meet the goats and taste the<br />

goat milk products from tangy cheeses and<br />

yoghurts to ice cream.<br />

Innovative beer makers<br />

In a former printworks factory turned<br />

brasserie in Aix, quench your thirst with Aixmade<br />

ale. What started as a passion project<br />

for a couple of young beer makers has won<br />

a legion of fans who flock to Aquae Maltae<br />

for the innovative beers served with tapas<br />

style snacks and a fun atmosphere. You’re<br />

likely to find their beers in local restaurants<br />

too – from lavender beer and garlic beer to<br />

their popular Sainte-Victoire, named after<br />

the local mountain that haunted the dreams<br />

of Cezanne, as well as Mistral, a blonde beer<br />

“perfect for hot days.”<br />

The goats love to hear the goat lady play the piano<br />

Gaodina<br />

Enjoy a beer at Brasserie Aquae Maltae<br />

Where to eat out:<br />

Locals love: Restaurant Gaodina – lunch<br />

or dinner here is like taking a mini holiday in<br />

just a couple of hours. Just a mile or so from<br />

the commercial centre, it’s surrounded by<br />

meadows of wildflowers and Judas trees and<br />

looks like a film set for ‘A Year in Provence’.<br />

A fabulous menu at a great price, plus a<br />

barbeque kitchen for sunny days and a<br />

delicious wine list – outstandingly scrumptious!<br />

Read our guide to Aix<br />

26 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 27

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Marseille takes the biscuit<br />

Marseille is famous for its bouillabaisse – a<br />

rustic and chunky fish soup, but ask the<br />

locals what they love best and they’re sure to<br />

mention Les Navettes des Accoules. Jose<br />

Orsoni, AKA “Jo Navettes”, loves to talk about<br />

the famous biscuits of Marseille which he<br />

makes at his store on the edge of Le Panier,<br />

the old district of the city just 5 minutes<br />

walk from the world-famous Museum of<br />

Civilisations of Europe, MUCEM.<br />

“Navettes are the perfect goûter, snack” he<br />

says “stick one in your pocket, it won’t break<br />

and you can nibble on it anytime – with coffee,<br />

with tea and perfect with champagne, they go<br />

with everything but not pastis” he grins.<br />

The store is filled with divine aromas of these<br />

unique to Marseille biscuits being baked in<br />

front of you – it’s the “orange blossom water<br />

that makes them so good, it’s not too sweet” he<br />

says. He tells me that they were invented 300<br />

years ago, and even after decades of making<br />

them, he still eats them every day. People come<br />

from far and wide for these sweet treats – if you<br />

want to make like a local, join the queue!<br />

28 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 29<br />

Jo Navattes<br />

Where to eat out<br />

Locals love: Sepia, perched on the Puget hill,<br />

there are fabulous views over the city as you<br />

indulge in the truly delectable dishes.<br />

Push the boat out: Restaurant Gerarh,<br />

50 Cours Julien, a vibrant quarter that the<br />

locals adore for its ambiance and brilliant<br />

restaurants. Chef Gerarh Habib epitomises<br />

the warm welcome of the south, with a<br />

restaurant both refined and cosy, and a menu<br />

that reflects his love of organic, local produce<br />

and spices. Food to make you smile.<br />

Stay at: Hôtel Maison Montgrand.<br />

© Marie de Saint-Seine - Restaurant Gerarh

Captivating Cassis<br />

I end my journey in style in the luminescent<br />

seaside town of Cassis with a stay at the<br />

magnificent Hotel Roches-Blanches, the<br />

white rocks. A former private mansion built<br />

in 1887, it became a hotel in the roaring 20s.<br />

Here where Winston Churchill played and<br />

Edith Piaf relaxed, you will find the sort of<br />

French paradise hotel that you dream of and<br />

see in films but don’t really believe it exists.<br />

There are 45 rooms, every one of them<br />

memorable. Four restaurants tease, tantalise<br />

and tempt your taste buds.<br />

And the view from my room over the beautiful<br />

Cap Canaille, the tallest cliff in Europe, glowing<br />

the colour of toasted apricots as the sun kisses<br />

the Mediterranean Sea at the close of day is<br />

nothing short of soul inspiring. It is one of those<br />

places that everyone should experience for true<br />

pleasure and French art de vivre.<br />

From Cassis (or nearby Marseille) the<br />

Calanques are a must-visit, soaring limestone<br />

coves lapped by the turquoise sea water – go<br />

in the morning if you can, the light is better!<br />

There’s just so much to fall in love with in this<br />

lovely little town from cobbled streets lined<br />

with boutiques, bars and bistros, to the famous<br />

route des Cretes along the coast and sandy<br />

beaches. But I’m here for the food and wine so<br />

I head to the restaurant La Vieille Auberge<br />

on the Quai Jean-Jacques Barthélémy for<br />

lunch. I would be happy just drinking in the<br />

views from this place but the menu is seriously<br />

lip-smacking.<br />

Cassis<br />

Room with a view at Hotel Roches-Blanches<br />

Les Belles Canailles restaurant,<br />

Hotel Roches-Blanches<br />

Nectar of the gods<br />

A stone’s throw from the centre of town,<br />

surrounded by vineyards you’ll find Domaine<br />

Tigana. And if that name rings a bell,<br />

it’s because the wine maker is legendary<br />

footballer and coach - Jean Tigana, formerly<br />

of Les Blues and Fulham FC amongst many<br />

other prestigious clubs. He produces 75%<br />

white and 25% rosé wines from 14 acres,<br />

“wine is about passion, not about money,<br />

Sunday brunch at Hotel Roches-Blanches<br />

30 | The Good Life France The Good Life France Cassis | 31

and yes football is about passion too though<br />

playing football is harder” he laughs gleefully.<br />

He’s here every day and totally hands on<br />

from serving customers to delivering to local<br />

restaurants which lap up his award-winning<br />

wines “there’s never enough left to export”<br />

he says as he pours me a glass after a tour of<br />

the vineyards and cellars (in English), though<br />

luckily, if you go to the shop you can buy it –<br />

and it’s seriously good.<br />

On my travels I only touched the tip of the<br />

taste sensation that makes up this incredible<br />

food and wine adventure trail – I’ll be back…<br />

You can find heaps of details about the<br />

experiences, offers, the territories and<br />

destinations and book your visit here:<br />

valleedelagastronomie.com/en<br />

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Cassis vineyard in the shadow of Cap Canaille<br />

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32 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 33

The French<br />

BASQUE Country<br />

Gillian Thornton soaks up the vivid colours and<br />

vibrant culture of French Basque Country<br />

Wherever you choose to holiday in France,<br />

there’s no escaping the blue, white and red of<br />

the French flag, patriotically displayed outside<br />

town halls and other civic buildings. But head<br />

to the far-southwest where the green foothills<br />

of the Pyrenees meet the rolling surf of the<br />

Atlantic and you’ll soon see that the Tricolore<br />

has competition.<br />

The vivid red and white flag of Basque<br />

Country celebrates the culture and lifestyle<br />

of an unofficial country within a country. Or<br />

to be entirely accurate, within two countries,<br />

for the seven historic provinces of Basque<br />

Country straddle the Pyrenean mountain<br />

range. The four largest ones lie in Spain,<br />

whilst the other three make up the western<br />

half of France’s Department 64, Pyrénées-<br />

Atlantiques. Historically, the provinces<br />

share customs, culture and even a common<br />

language, Euskara. Now widely taught in<br />

local schools it bears no resemblance at all to<br />

French, or indeed any other language.<br />

Basque architecture is as distinctive as<br />

the language. Wooden timbers painted in<br />

traditional ox-blood red or forest green splash<br />

across whitewashed facades at every turn,<br />

giving a permanently upbeat feel to towns<br />

and villages, whatever the weather. But<br />

there’s a grander side to the Pays Basque<br />

too in the Belle Epoque mansions of elegant<br />

34 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 35

Biarritz. Napoleon III and his wife Eugènie<br />

commissioned a sumptuous summer palace<br />

here on the seafront, now repurposed as the<br />

5* Hôtel du Palais. And where the emperor<br />

went, the aristocracy of Europe followed,<br />

building flamboyant seaside villas of their own.<br />

But in the 1950s, this chic seaside resort<br />

welcomed a new kind of clientele with the<br />

advent of Californian surf culture. Seventy<br />

years on, Biarritz still exudes this heady mix<br />

of period elegance and buzzing youth culture,<br />

and there are few nicer ways to soak it up than<br />

to walk the undulating promenade around the<br />

Grande Plage where surfers skilfully ride the<br />

waves towards the Casino.<br />

My favourite coastal stroll leads south, past<br />

the old fishing port with its buzzing quayside<br />

restaurants and round the headland to the<br />

town’s excellent aquarium. Opposite the Art<br />

Deco façade, a high-level walkway leads<br />

over the waves to the emblematic statue<br />

of the Virgin on a rock, so walk on water to<br />

catch those sweeping views back across the<br />

Grande Plage to the lighthouse. Stop off for<br />

a meal or a drink at the Vieux Port then drop<br />

down to the Côtes des Basques, birthplace of<br />

surfing in France, for more surfboard action<br />

and views to La Rhune, highest point in the<br />

western Pyrenees.<br />

But Biarritz isn’t the only gem on the French<br />

Basque Coast. Small resorts dot the sandy<br />

shoreline as you head towards Spain, but<br />

the must-see seaside town is Saint-Jeande-Luz<br />

where Louis XIV married Maria<br />

Theresa of Spain in 1660 at the church of<br />

St John the Baptist, today located on the<br />

main shopping street.<br />

If you’re searching for gifts, take a look at<br />

traditional striped Basque linens, buy a pair<br />

of local espadrilles, or maybe stock up at<br />

Maison Adam on scrumptious macaroons, first<br />

presented to Louis XIV before his wedding. His<br />

bride-to-be spent the eve of the ceremony at<br />

the pink-washed ‘Infanta House’ overlooking<br />

the busy fishing harbour.<br />

Across the harbour in Ciboure stands the<br />

birthplace of composer Maurice Ravel who<br />

Espelette<br />

The Virgin on the Rock<br />

penned his famous Boléro in 1928 whilst on<br />

holiday in St-Jean-de-Luz.<br />

North of Biarritz, the straight sandy shore of<br />

Anglet embraces a succession of well-serviced<br />

beaches such as Chambre d’Amour as far<br />

as the mouth of the Adour. A few kilometres<br />

upriver lies Bayonne, unofficial capital of<br />

French Basque Country and administratively<br />

linked with Biarritz and Anglet as B-A-B.<br />

Immerse yourself in what it means to be<br />

Basque at the Basque Museum, housed in a<br />

former merchant’s house on the quayside.<br />

Explore the narrow streets of half-timbered<br />

houses in the cathedral quarter. And, on<br />

Saturday mornings, browse the street stalls<br />

that fringe the quaysides and bridges around<br />

the covered market.<br />

For a true taste of the town, discover<br />

Bayonne’s two signature products, chocolate<br />

and ham. Chocolate first arrived in France<br />

in the 16th century via Jewish immigrants<br />

escaping the Spanish inquisition and there<br />

are many independent chocolate makers<br />

each with their own speciality. Look out too<br />

for producers of Bayonne’s famous cured<br />

ham, made from Basque Country pig meat<br />

that is cured and treated with local salt and<br />

with crushed pimentos from the nearby<br />

village of Espelette.<br />

Tempting though it is to linger by the<br />

ocean, the lush green interior of French<br />

Basque Country is a must-see. Take the<br />

cog railway to the top of La Rhune for a<br />

seagull’s eye view of coast and countryside.<br />

Go underground at the Grottes de Sare and<br />

the Grottes d’Isturitz and Oxocelhaya for<br />

fabulous rock formations. And at Camboles-Bains,<br />

stroll through the glorious formal<br />

garden and sun-drenched rooms of Villa<br />

Arnaga, former home of Edmond Rostand,<br />

author of Cyrano de Bergerac.<br />

Nearby Espelette is an extravaganza in red<br />

and white, not just in the architecture and<br />

flags, but in the ubiquitous strings of scarlet<br />

peppers that adorn houses, shop fronts, and<br />

restaurants. Along with Sare, Ainhoa and La<br />

Bastide-Clairance, Espelette is classified<br />

36 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 37

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amongst the elite band of Plus Beaux Villages<br />

de France.<br />

And wherever you stop, look out for a curious<br />

high single wall behind an open space, often<br />

in the village centre. This is a fronton, all that’s<br />

required for Basque Country’s signature game,<br />

pelota, played squash-style against the wall.<br />

Variations of the game – some of them played<br />

indoors – use a leather glove, wicker basket or<br />

even a bare hand to hit the ball in this highoctane<br />

sport.<br />

But there’s a third sport that seems part of<br />

the Basque DNA. Several high profile rugby<br />

players hail from the region and a number of<br />

former internationals can be found running<br />

restaurants, bars and even clothing brands.<br />

Passions run high when the whistle blows and<br />

everyone is invited to join in the good-natured<br />

fun, so don’t even try to resist. Just go with<br />

the flow and soak up the atmosphere of this<br />

exciting and welcoming region.<br />

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38 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 39


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For centuries the Kings of France made the<br />

Loire Valley their royal playground, a favourite<br />

place to hunt, eat, drink and be very merry.<br />

With a mild climate, fertile soil that makes it<br />

the market garden of France and excellent<br />

wines, it’s no surprise that the lure of the Loire<br />

was irresistible. It still is says Janine Marsh...<br />

Every year Kings and queens and the nobility<br />

of France made their way from Paris to stay<br />

in their beautiful castles and create glorious<br />

gardens. They took with them beds, furniture,<br />

tableware, all the things that made life<br />

pleasant. In those days, items such as this<br />

were not so readily available and often had<br />

a huge price tag. King Francis 1, he who built<br />

the vast Renaissance chateau of Chambord,<br />

had so much baggage it took 12,000 horses to<br />

carry it all.<br />

40 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 41

Thankfully many of those glorious chateaux<br />

survived the destruction of wars and the<br />

French Revolution and a whole new legion<br />

of fans of the Loire Valley came along and<br />

it became especially popular with Parisians<br />

since, as it never ceases to surprise me, you<br />

can hop on a train in the centre of Paris and<br />

alight in Tours, the gateway to the Loire Valley,<br />

not much more than an hour later.<br />

Tours – at the heart of the<br />

Loire Valley<br />

Tours is central to the UNESCO-listed (World<br />

Heritage of Humanity) Loire Valley with its<br />

majestic chateaux which give it the nickname<br />

‘the valley of kings’. Surrounded by tranquil<br />

countryside, verdant vineyards, historic towns<br />

and charming villages, Tours itself is well worth<br />

a visit and makes a great base if you only have<br />

time for a weekend or short visit.<br />

Within a radius of less than 30 miles are<br />

some of the Loire Valley’s most stunning<br />

castles – picturesque Chenonceau, and Clos<br />

Lucé where Leonardo da Vinci lived out his<br />

last years having ridden a donkey across<br />

the Alps from Italy, carrying his not quite<br />

finished Mona Lisa with him. And a stone’s<br />

throw away, Amboise is where da Vinci is<br />

laid to rest. Meanwhile Villandry has quite<br />

possibly the most marvellous gardens of the<br />

Loire, Ussé AKA the ‘sleeping beauty castle’ is<br />

magical. And then there’s the stunning Azayle-Rideau<br />

set on its own little island, plus the<br />

nearby charming, less well-known Chateaux<br />

de l’Islette where the great sculpture Rodin<br />

stayed with his muse and lover Camille<br />

Claudelle, and Saché where Honoré de<br />

Balzac wrote some of his greatest works, often<br />

walking there from Tours, where he was born.<br />

Those <strong>Summer</strong> nights<br />

In the summer months, don’t miss the fabulous<br />

Guingette de Tours. Just a few minutes from<br />

Guingette dancers<br />

the centre of the city, you’ll find it by the<br />

landmark Ferris Wheel. Nip down the big<br />

staircase and there you’ll enjoy a laid-back<br />

meal at possibly Tour’s most welcoming, and<br />

delicious, outdoor restaurant as you bask in<br />

the twinkling lights alongside the mighty Loire,<br />

France’s longest river. There’s something a<br />

bit magical about the guingette, the sort of<br />

place a grown up harry Potter would love. On<br />

summer nights, as the sky turns the colour of<br />

the ripest peaches you ever saw, the sun’s rays<br />

create a glittering kaleidoscope reflecting off<br />

silver disco balls, as birds swoop across the<br />

river and people tango with abandon with<br />

a dance teacher on hand to help novices. If<br />

that sounds all too energetic, simply pluck a<br />

book from the shelves and relax in one of the<br />

comfy chairs.<br />

Cathedrale Saint-Gatien ©_ADT Touraine – Jean-Christophe Coutand<br />

The food is outstanding. It’s happy food. You<br />

look around and people are smiling as they<br />

eat. Bursting with flavour, pesto, basil, the<br />

freshest and local products. The portions are<br />

generous, but you won’t want to miss a single<br />

mouthful! This bar and restaurant is perfect<br />

for a romantic night out, for solo travellers like<br />

me, for families and for friends.<br />

This little piggy went to<br />

market<br />

France excels when it comes to mouthwatering<br />

markets – but the one in Tours,<br />

known as the belly of Tours – stands out. It’s<br />

the place to go for fabulous fresh produce,<br />

from pastries to chocolate and cheese,<br />

vegetables, wine and a whole lot more. The<br />

covered market is absolutely delicious. I<br />

didn’t intend to spend a whole morning here<br />

but I was so transfixed by the displays and<br />

the produce, some of which I’ve never seen<br />

anywhere else – like Sainte Maure de Touraine<br />

42 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 43

Loire Brakes<br />

Loire Brakes<br />

Slow Down And Enjoy The View<br />

Tour the beautiful Loire Valley at your own pace with a guided e-bike holiday<br />

loirebrakes.com<br />

cheese and pressed pears tapée (dried) tart –<br />

I couldn’t help myself.<br />

History and culture<br />

Visit the old town and wander the cobbled<br />

streets to admire the ancient half-timbered<br />

houses. Follow the historic Circuit Saint Martin<br />

in the footsteps of Saint Martin to discover<br />

the main monuments relating to the Roman<br />

officer who became Bishop of Tours. When he<br />

died in nearby Candes in November 397 AD,<br />

monks rowed his body to be interred in Tours<br />

and it was said that where they passed, flowers<br />

bloomed, trees grew leaves and birds sang<br />

giving rise to the French phrase St Martin’s<br />

<strong>Summer</strong> (in English Indian <strong>Summer</strong>). The<br />

pilgrimage of Tours is one of the oldest<br />

of Christendom.<br />

There are several art venues and museums<br />

including the Musée du Compagnonnage<br />

which is extraordinary. Dedicated to trades<br />

guilds, it’s located in the former monks<br />

dormitory of the Benedictine Abbey of<br />

Saint Julien (13th-18th century). UNESCO<br />

listed (Intangible Cultural Heritage)<br />

Compagnonnage dates back from the end of<br />

the Middle Ages, ''knighthood of the working<br />

class'' George Sand called it). You’ll discover<br />

an impressive display of tools, engravings,<br />

woodwork and even a chateau made of sugar.<br />

Stay at: Hotel de Cygne in the centre but<br />

in a quiet street, in one of oldest mansions in<br />

Tours. The renovated 18th century rooms are<br />

charming and have oodles of character.<br />

Day trips: Take a chateau day trip with<br />

French family-run Ophorus tours<br />

Stay longer and take a fabulous tour by e-bike<br />

and discover the Loire Valley with<br />

Loire brakes<br />

Tourist Office: touraineloirevalley.com<br />

44 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 45

Nibbling around<br />


Gillian Thornton samples and sips her way through cheese and cider country.<br />

In 1962, former French President Charles de<br />

Gaulle famously bemoaned the challenges of<br />

governing a country ‘with 246 different kinds<br />

of cheese’. So the task must be even harder<br />

for today’s President. Sixty years on from De<br />

Gaulle’s gastronomic analogy, France now lists<br />

over 400 varieties, including more than 60<br />

that have been awarded Appellation d’Origine<br />

Contrôlée (AOC) status in France and, more<br />

recently the European label, Appellation<br />

d’Origine Protegée (AOP).<br />

French cheeses come in all shapes, sizes and<br />

strengths, lovingly produced on both artisan<br />

and industrial scale from the milk of cows,<br />

goats and even sheep. But whilst some are<br />

appreciated only in their local area, one French<br />

cheese is famous throughout the world. One<br />

of four AOC cheeses to come from the lush<br />

farmland of Normandy, Camembert is instantly<br />

recognisable with its distinctive circular shape,<br />

wooden box and colourful label.<br />

Normandy’s magnificent coastline is famous<br />

for its top quality seafood but turn your back<br />

on the sea and the bocage landscape of<br />

cattle meadows and apple orchards combine<br />

to produce the perfect cheese course, not to<br />

mention a range of liquid accompaniments to<br />

carry you from apéro to digestif. Even better,<br />

you can always find someone willing to show<br />

you how these signature products are made<br />

and to sell you their produce direct from<br />

source – just ask at any local tourist office or<br />

go to normandie.tourisme.fr for inspiration.<br />

Bocage doesn’t get much more beautiful<br />

than in the Pays d’Auge which lies east of<br />

Caen, ducal HQ for William of Normandy in<br />

the 11th century and the last resting place of<br />

this illegitimate son who took England’s top<br />

job in 1066 as King William I. Think small,<br />

wooded valleys and rich pastures lined with<br />

thick hedgerows, spring trees laden with<br />

apple blossom, and traditional half-timbered<br />

houses. This is inland Normandy at its most<br />

picturesque with some of the most fetching<br />

cattle you’ll see anywhere – brown and white<br />

with uniform brown eye patches.<br />

Spread out around the town of Lisieux, the<br />

Pays d’Auge is the birthplace of traditional<br />

Camembert, invented by farmer’s wife Marie<br />

Harel. There’s a statue of her – and also<br />

one of a very fine cow – in the small town of<br />

Vimoutiers, but her famous cheese was created<br />

at the Manoir de Beaumoncel in the nearby<br />

hamlet of Camembert in 1791.<br />

A priest fleeing from revolutionaries in his native<br />

area of Brie shared a cheese manufacturing<br />

secret with Madame Harel, who went on to<br />

create the cheese we know today. During the<br />

First World War, large quantities were sent to<br />

French troops on the Western Front to boost<br />

morale, helping to turn Camembert into a<br />

national symbol. In 1983, authentic Camembert<br />

de Normandie was given protected status.<br />

46 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 47

Discover the full story at Maison du<br />

Camembert in the heart of the tiny village<br />

which includes a visit to the adjacent Clos de<br />

Beaumoncel cheese factory. Here you can<br />

look through glass to see how Normandy milk<br />

is transformed into traditional handmade<br />

Camembert – up to 6000 organic and AOP/<br />

PDO cheeses per week.<br />

Marie Harel statue at Vimoutiers<br />

And of course the visit ends with a<br />

comparative tasting of artisan and<br />

industrially made Camembert in the onsite<br />

shop. I lingered too over the display of<br />

colourful pictorial labels commemorating<br />

various anniversaries of the D-Day Landings<br />

in 1944. Each one is a mini work of art<br />

which graphically illustrates the attraction<br />

of taking up tyrosemiophilia as a hobby.<br />

Cheese label collecting to you and me!<br />

maisonducamembert.com<br />

Camembert nestles in the Orne department<br />

and a handy sign at the entrance to the<br />

village points the way to Normandy’s other<br />

AOC cheeses. Just 15km to the north in the<br />

department of Calvados is Livarot-Pays-d-<br />

Auge, home town of Livarot with its orange<br />

rind and powerful flavour. Don’t be surprised<br />

if you hear someone ask for a wedge of<br />

‘Colonel’ – Livarot’s nickname thanks to the<br />

five ‘military’ stripes of reed or paper around<br />

the circumference.<br />

Head north again and 54km from<br />

Camembert, Pont-L’Evèque nestles between<br />

Lisieux and Deauville, still within the<br />

Pays d’Auge area of Calvados. Square or<br />

rectangular in shape, its eponymous mild<br />

cheese is covered with a rind that ranges in<br />

colour from golden yellow to orange.<br />

For Normandy’s fourth AOP cheese, you<br />

need to cross the river Seine to Neufchâtelen-Bray<br />

in the department of Seine-<br />

Maritime, 171 km from Camembert. Covered<br />

in a thin white edible layer, Neufchâtel is a<br />

favourite for romantic dinners thanks to its<br />

traditional heart-shape that harks back to the<br />

Middle Ages when local girls would offer their<br />

cheeses to occupying English troops during<br />

the Hundred Years War.<br />

Few drinks go better with Normandy’s<br />

flavourful cheeses than a glass of local dry<br />

cider or – for the drivers – farm-produced apple<br />

juice. Normandy’s apple orchards stretch over<br />

a wide area, but the self-drive Route du Cidre<br />

winds its way through the heartland of the AOC<br />

Cidre du Pays d’Auge production area, linking<br />

the villages of Cambremer and Bonnebosq with<br />

the postcard-pretty community of Beuvronen<br />

Auge, classified amongst Les Plus Beaux<br />

Villages de France.<br />

Created in 1974, the Cambremer Cider Route<br />

was the first trail in France to be launched by<br />

producers keen to promote the quality of their<br />

products and their warm hospitality. Today<br />

you will find almost 20 ‘Cru de Cambremer’<br />

producers along the route, all open to visitors<br />

– find full details, including opening hours, on<br />

routeducidre.com<br />

Some farms only produce cider; others apple<br />

juice, cider jelly, and even cheese. Look out<br />

too for Pommeau AOC de Normandie, a<br />

delicious apple aperitif made from threeparts<br />

pressed apples – or must - to one part<br />

Calvados, the area’s famous apple spirit. And<br />

whilst Calvados improves with age – if you can<br />

resist opening it, of course – young Calvados<br />

works particularly well in cocktails.<br />

The Pays d’Auge is a delight for walkers with<br />

its gentle countryside, timber-framed manor<br />

houses, and pretty churches, as well as small<br />

stud farms producing the top quality horses<br />

for which Normandy is famous. There are<br />

surprises too. Bonnesbosq has named its<br />

sports ground after a famous Hollywood actor<br />

who owned a mansion in the neighbourhood<br />

– none other than Yul Brynner, star of 1956<br />

movie The King and I and, three years<br />

later, The Magnificent Seven. And close<br />

to Cambremer stands the bijou medieval<br />

castle of Crèvecoeur-en-Auge, which hosts<br />

exhibitions and ‘living history’ re-enactments<br />

during the summer months.<br />

Then there’s Beuvron-en-Auge, less than<br />

20 minutes’ drive from the seaside resort<br />

of Cabourg on the Côte Fleurie. Don’t<br />

miss it, but do try to visit outside of peak<br />

times, especially in summer, when its many<br />

restaurants and tempting antique shops are<br />

bustling with visitors. Expect crowds too during<br />

the cider festival in late October. But this<br />

elite Plus Beau Village is a gem with its broad<br />

square, covered market and craft workshops,<br />

all surrounded by tranquil countryside.<br />

Small wonder that it too has attracted a<br />

celebrity resident, world-famous British artist<br />

48 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 49

Neufchatel and Camembert<br />

David Hockney who moved close to the village<br />

in 2019. Inspired by the light of Norman skies<br />

and the arrival of spring in the Pays d’Auge,<br />

Hockney produced a 90-metre frieze from<br />

scenes ‘painted’ on an iPad and inspired by<br />

the Bayeux Tapestry. First displayed at Salts<br />

Beuvron en Auge<br />

Mill near Bradford in his native Yorkshire,<br />

A Year in Normandie has also been exhibited<br />

in Paris and most recently at Bayeux, a<br />

glorious tribute to this tranquil corner of<br />

Norman countryside.<br />

Boozy baked Camembert recipe<br />

Unwrap the cheese and then place back<br />

in the box. Tie some string around the box<br />

so it keeps its shape.<br />

Make small incisions in the top of the<br />

cheese. Peel and finely slice the garlic<br />

and poke it into the Camembert with a<br />

few small sprigs of thyme.<br />

250g Camembert<br />

Bunch fresh thyme<br />

2 cloves of garlic<br />

1 tablespoon maple syrup (or honey)<br />

1 tablespoon brandy<br />

Mix the honey and brandy together and<br />

drizzle over the cheese.<br />

Bake at 170°C for around 20 minutes.<br />

Peel back the top and dip, dunk and<br />

dollop chunks of bread in, crackers, or a<br />

very easy to make tarte de soleil which<br />

will give this dish a whole load of wow<br />

factor appeal!<br />


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50 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 51

Saint-Cirq<br />

Lapopie<br />

The ‘pearl of the Lot Valley’ a wondrous,<br />

cliffhanging beauty of a village in the<br />

Lot… by Sue Aran and Janine Marsh<br />

“It was in June 1950, as we rode by car…that I<br />

first saw Saint-Cirq, blazing with Bengal Fire,<br />

like a rose in the night…It was love at first<br />

sight…Above any other place in the world,<br />

in America or Europe, Saint-Cirq is my one<br />

place of enchantment…I stopped wanting to<br />

be elsewhere” – André Breton, writer and one<br />

of the founders of the surrealism movement<br />

Saint-Cirq Lapopie, officially one of the most<br />

beautiful villages in France, lies within the<br />

Parc natural régional des Causses du Quercy<br />

in the Lot. It’s an area known historically<br />

as Aquitania Prima, the ancient Quercy<br />

region in southwest France, composed of the<br />

Lot, Lot-et-Garonne and Tarn-et-Garonne<br />

départments.<br />

The best way to reach it is via the road from<br />

Cahors, just 18km to Saint-Cirq (pronounced<br />

Saint ’Sear’). The route is lined with cliffs<br />

and threads its way through the majestic Lot<br />

Valley. Then suddenly medieval Saint-Cirq is<br />

above you, perched almost 100m above the<br />

Lot river, looking like a mirage.<br />

Saint-Cirq, enclosed by fortified gates and<br />

punctured by picturesque bridges, is small but<br />

perfectly formed. Once a castle crowned its<br />

heights, perfect for seeing long distances, it<br />

made the town a defensive stronghold. Built in<br />

the 8th century by the Duke of Aquitaine, the<br />

castle became the property of the Lapopie<br />

family and did its job well. Even Richard<br />

the Lionheart couldn’t capture it. But those<br />

defences worked too well, and afraid that<br />

it would fall into enemy hands one day and<br />

never be retrieved, Louis XI of France ordered<br />

its destruction in 1471. From the ruins there are<br />

beautiful views over the rooftops of the village.<br />

Saint-Cirq-Lapopie, nicknamed the ‘pearl<br />

of the Lot Valley’ was the first village to be<br />

crowned “favourite village of the French” by<br />

the France Télévisions program in 2012. There<br />

are more than a dozen historical monuments<br />

and clifftop cobbled streets, hollyhocks grow<br />

out of cracks in the pavement bordering the<br />

ancient houses, cafés, charming restaurants<br />

and artisan shops.<br />

The 16th century Gothic church, l’Église de<br />

52 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 53

Saint-Cirq is topped by a mighty bell tower,<br />

above a chapel built during the Gallo-Roman<br />

era. Beautiful 13th to 16th century stone<br />

and half-timbered houses (13 of which are<br />

registered historic buildings) line the steep<br />

winding streets.<br />

The River Lot curls its way along the bottom<br />

of the limestone cliff. Head to the bottom of<br />

the village for a 3-mile walk along the river.<br />

You’ll be glad to know it’s flat, and well worth<br />

the effort for the beautiful scenery. You can<br />

rent a boat or take a guided river tour from<br />

the tiny port.<br />

The 17th century locks of the Lot river helped<br />

the village to prosper commercially as<br />

garbarres (flat bottomed boats) transported<br />

local produce, tobacco and wine to Cahors<br />

and Bordeaux. The village was famous for its<br />

craftsmen woodturners and it’s said that they<br />

collectively invented the wooden taps for wine<br />

barrels! Today the village is home to many<br />

artisans and galleries and boutiques line its<br />

medieval streets.<br />

During the middle of the 20th century, the<br />

pointillist artist, Henri Martin and the Catalan<br />

artist, PIerre Daura loved to holiday in Saint-<br />

Cirq, as well as the American photographer<br />

Man Ray. The surrealist writer, André Breton<br />

spent his summers here and his former 13th<br />

century house, the oldest in the village and a<br />

former sailors inn, now hosts the International<br />

Centre of Surrealism.<br />

Over many thousands of years humans have<br />

left their handprints, quite literally, in the<br />

Quercy region. Some of the earliest traces<br />

of cave dwellers dating back to 25,000 BC,<br />

can be found in the Grotte du Pech Merle,<br />

just below Saint-Cirq. The caves are still<br />

open to the public, unlike the famous caves<br />

of Lascaux, a 100 km northwest, which have<br />

been closed since 2006.<br />

There are plenty of places to take a break,<br />

watch the life of the village going on, indulge<br />

in the local cuisine and a glass of the fullbodied<br />

red wine the area is famous for. There’s<br />

a tiny wine museum which showcases local<br />

produce and wines including tastings. For<br />


SUR CÉLÉ<br />

An enchanting luxurious riverside retreat in the beautiful Célé Valley<br />

Experience la France Profonde<br />

www.lemoulinsurcele.com<br />

an authentic taste of the Lot, Le Gourmet<br />

Quercynois will satisfy your soul. In a 17thcentury<br />

house, regional specialities star - duck,<br />

truffles and their renowned apple pudding<br />

which features pastis and plum liqueur in puff<br />

pastry served with salted caramel ice cream.<br />

Tip: Drive to the upper parking lot unless you’re<br />

a seasoned climber, as the lower parking lot is<br />

quite a strenuous hike to the village proper.<br />

Stay at: Le Moulin-sur-Célé opens its doors<br />

in the summer of <strong>2023</strong>. An exquisite holiday<br />

home in a magical setting, surrounded by<br />

glorious countryside and vineyards in the<br />

Lot Valley. Less than 30 minutes from Saint-<br />

Cirq-Lapopie, Cahors and the wonderful<br />

Rocamadour, Le Moulin-sur-Célé is a<br />

destination in itself, a private refuge, perfect<br />

for families, couples and friends in a sublime<br />

natural environment with pool, tennis court<br />

and private sandbank along the river. Find our<br />

more: lemoulinsurcele.com<br />

Tourist office: cahorsvalleedulot.com<br />

54 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 55

HIDDEN<br />

GEM:<br />

Le Grand<br />

Bornand,<br />

Haute-<br />

Savoie<br />

Vue village © C. Chabod - Le Grand Bornand Tourisme<br />

Le Grand Bornand near Aravis, within<br />

the Annecy Mountains region is a skier’s<br />

delight, but it’s also an absolutely fabulous<br />

summer destination. You’ll discover a<br />

vibrant little town, with plenty of shops, bars<br />

and restaurants plus a plethora of activities<br />

including fantastic hiking and biking routes,<br />

as well as culture and heritage, set against<br />

a backdrop of mountains covered in<br />

greenery and wildflowers. It really is a little<br />

hidden gem…<br />

What to see and do in<br />

the town<br />

Le Grand Bornand is small enough to get to<br />

know it well in a day, big enough to keep you<br />

happy for a week or more, and surrounded by<br />

glorious countryside.<br />

This is a town that loves cows and there’s a<br />

year-round Cow Art Trail, an open-air tour<br />

featuring artworks paying homage to the<br />

humble cow!<br />

You’ll also find here the shop of Didier Perrillat,<br />

one of the last artisans making leather goods<br />

in Haute-Savoie, including necklaces for cows!<br />

Did you know every cow has a unique bell?<br />

And a good farmer can recognise an individual<br />

cow by its ring? Cows here wear daytime bells<br />

but they may have a special “dress” bell which<br />

is much bigger and heavier and worn for shows<br />

and special occasions. Didier makes beautiful<br />

leather straps for the bells to hang on for those<br />

special occasions! You can watch him creating<br />

all sorts of leather goods from purses to bags<br />

in his cosy shop Chez Le Bourrelier.<br />

Nature lovers and families will love La Source, an<br />

authentic farm with exhibition rooms, workshops,<br />

play areas, a quirky cow sculpture (of course),<br />

plus a bar and café set in stunning surroundings.<br />

The town makes for a great base for touring<br />

the area by car, bike, on foot or even on roller<br />

skis, great practice for the winter season and<br />

Didier in his workshop<br />

56 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 57

a terrific way to get fit. It’s the outstanding<br />

natural beauty of the area that is the real star<br />

though with a photo opp at every step.<br />

Around and about<br />

A short drive from Le Grand Bornand you’ll<br />

find the Col des Aravis. At 1498m it has<br />

magnificent views that take your breath away.<br />

Those ski lifts that make skiers life easy, also<br />

work in the summer and make for a fun ride.<br />

Mountain bikers will love the 178km of cycle<br />

paths weave their way through the Massif des<br />

Aravis mountain range - there are 16 trails,<br />

a bike park and even a bike school offering<br />

guided night-time e-bike rides including dinner<br />

in a high-altitude restaurant and a starlit<br />

descent to the village. Don’t fancy breaking<br />

into a sweat? Hop on an e-bike and take an<br />

18km route that offers spectacular views over<br />

the Aravis Mountains, great for the whole family<br />

with a farmhouse auberge stop en route.<br />

Hikers are spoiled for choice with a huge<br />

variety of signposted walks for those who like<br />

a challenge, or those who like to wander in<br />

peace and not run out of puff.<br />

Art Vache © Alpcat Medias<br />

Eat out<br />

The high street of Le Grand Bornand is lined<br />

with delicious gourmet food shops – cheese,<br />

chocolate and charcuterie galore. There’s<br />

an award winning boulangerie at Le Petit<br />

Marquis with speciality breads of Savoie,<br />

and if you’ve got a sweet tooth, head to<br />

Gourmandises d’Antan and try the “alpine<br />

snowflakes”, “Aravis crystals” and more<br />

delicious little treats.<br />

There are plenty of restaurants and bars in the<br />

town from gastronomic to traditional. Head up<br />

into the mountains for glorious views and more<br />

fabulous restaurants.<br />

Enjoy a meal high up in the fresh air, there’s<br />

nothing quite like it to whet your appetite<br />

58 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 59

and there’s lots of great choice. For<br />

views, ambiance and scrumptious dishes,<br />

Restaurant les Rhodos ticks all the boxes<br />

Don’t miss a cheese tasting – this is<br />

Reblochon cheese country. First produced<br />

in the 13th century, it’s a traditional taste<br />

of the Mountains. Find out more about<br />

the history of the area, life in the past<br />

and Reblochon cheese at the Le Hameau<br />

des Alpes museum at nearby La Clusaz.<br />

And don’t miss out on tartiflette, a melted<br />

cheese melange of lardons, cream, onion<br />

and potato topped with Reblochon -<br />

perfect after a bike ride or ramble on a<br />

summer’s day.<br />

Chalet Alti<br />

Chalet Argali<br />

Stay at:<br />

Chalet Alti - Just 700m from the centre of<br />

Le Grand Bornand, the five star, beautifully<br />

furnished chalet offers a fabulous mountain<br />

getaway at any time of year and sleeps up<br />

to 14 guests. Offering amazing views, guests<br />

can enjoy the hot tub in the garden, a sauna<br />

and a dedicated children’s floor.<br />

Chalet Argali - A gorgeous five-star chalet<br />

which sleeps up to 14, set on the edge of Le<br />

Grand Bornand Chinaillon, with easy access<br />

to fantastic walking and cycling. With a<br />

sauna, a lovely sunny terrace with outdoor<br />

dining area, a petanque court, table football<br />

and board games, this is a perfect mountain<br />

chalet for all the family.<br />

60 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 61


France’s mild obsession<br />

We all know Paris as the city of love or the<br />

city of lights - but did you know it is also the<br />

city of chocolate shops? The ‘Chocolate<br />

Capital’ boasts over 300 dedicated stores,<br />

claiming the title around the world. It’s no<br />

wonder we think the French have a mild<br />

obsession with chocolate says food writer<br />

Ally Mitchel…<br />

France is besotted, and produces around<br />

700 000 tonnes of chocolate each year.<br />

This love goes back all the way to the 17th<br />

century, when chocolate was an aphrodisiac<br />

drug lorded around Versailles, and nobles<br />

hired their own personal chocolate makers.<br />

However, it wasn’t all chocolate parties –<br />

it’s a tale of trade wars and greed which<br />

brought chocolate to the French stage.<br />

For thousands of years, the Olmecs, then<br />

Mayans of ancient Mesoamerica (the<br />

Mexico of today), drank a brew of cacao.<br />

And by the 1500s, the Aztecs had adopted<br />

a similar cultural practice, drinking xoc*l*tl<br />

meaning ‘bitter water’, and traded the<br />

beans as currency. This ‘drink of the gods’<br />

was consumed by the King Montezuma 50<br />

times a day and was said to possess mystical<br />

medicinal and aphrodisiac properties.<br />

In the 16th century, Christopher Columbus<br />

allegedly brought cacao beans back to Europe<br />

after exploring the Americas, but these fruits<br />

were considered too bitter to gain any public<br />

excitement. However, when the Spanish<br />

conquistadores including Hernán Cortés<br />

returned with the beans in the late 1500s, the<br />

publicity grew - especially when the Spanish<br />

court added other colonial imports, including<br />

sugar, to make it more palatable. The Spanish<br />

then kept the joy of chocolate a trade secret<br />

for the next decade.<br />

Chocolate came to southern France in the<br />

early 1600s, introduced by Jewish migrants<br />

who settled in Bayonne, bringing with the<br />

secret of chocolate-making. Over the next<br />

two hundred years, this community founded<br />

the first French chocolate companies,<br />

and established Bayonne as France’s first<br />

chocolatier city. Finally, the Spanish secret of<br />

chocolate was released around Europe.<br />

By 1615, chocolate was the darling of the<br />

French court. The 14-year-old Spanish<br />

princess Anne of Austria presented her<br />

betrothed King Louis XIII with a chest filled<br />

with chocolate, and from then on it was the<br />

exclusive indulgence of the Kings of France<br />

and their courts. Consumed in liquid form, this<br />

exoticism was flavoured with other mystical<br />

ingredients such as coffee, cloves and vanilla,<br />

all considered to possess medicinal or druglike<br />

qualities. Most of all, the French court<br />

deemed chocolate an aphrodisiac thanks to<br />

its revitalising qualities and its Aztec roots,<br />

which, to the French aristocrats’ sensibilities,<br />

meant it was wildly sensual. In 1702, a doctor<br />

reported that, ‘Chocolate's properties are<br />

such that they stimulate Venus' ardour’.<br />

Under Louis XIV, chocolate in all its forms was<br />

a feature of Versailles’ cuisine. Confectioners<br />

were hired exclusively to make the nobles<br />

daily hot chocolates. He himself developed<br />

such a taste for chocolate, that it was deemed<br />

a continuous supply was essential. So he<br />

ordered the cultivation of cocoa beans in<br />

62 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 63

the French-owned West Indies. His own<br />

chocolatier David Chaillou was bestowed<br />

with the privilege of being the country’s<br />

only chocolate trader. He opened the first<br />

chocolate factory in 1659, a monopoly that<br />

lasted for 29 years.<br />

The fascination for chocolate continued with<br />

the king’s successors. Louis XV could be found<br />

in the kitchens making his own hot chocolate,<br />

the recipe of which still survives today. His<br />

favourite mistresses, Madame de Pompadour<br />

and Madame du Barry regularly drank hot<br />

chocolate and inspired court gossip. Madame<br />

de Pompadour’s low libido was notorious so<br />

drinking chocolate ‘heated her blood’ whereas<br />

Madame du Barry was at the opposite end of<br />

the spectrum, and it was claimed chocolate<br />

elicited her ‘insatiable lust’.<br />

Louis XVI, along with Marie-Antoinette, was<br />

a connoisseur of the beverage. The queen’s<br />

own chocolate maker was none other than<br />

Chaillou’s great-great-grandson Sulpice<br />

Debauve. By now, all noble families had their<br />

own chocolatier, yet the royal couple had two,<br />

including the king’s personal physician since<br />

chocolate was still believed to be medicinally<br />

beneficial. Marie-Antoinette started each<br />

day with a cup of hot chocolate served<br />

with whipped cream in the Viennese style.<br />

Debauve made her chocolate medallions<br />

Step back in time<br />

and discover the past at<br />

Azincourt 1415 historic centre<br />

Azincourt1415.com<br />

24 Rue Charles VI<br />

62310 Azincourt<br />

64 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 65

Pistolles de Marie-Antoinette © Debauve & Sulpice<br />

which disguised the taste of bitter medicine<br />

that the Queen took for her headaches. Known<br />

as “Pistoles de Marie-Antoinette” they were the<br />

first chewable chocolates. They were such a<br />

success that, in 1823, at his Parisian chocolate<br />

shop, he created ‘dietary’ chocolates for<br />

good health - flavoured with orange blossom<br />

and vanilla. To this day “Pistoles de Marie-<br />

Antoinette” are still made by Debauve & Gallais<br />

– though without the headache medicine.<br />

By then, in the post-revolution climate,<br />

chocolate was finally available to the masses,<br />

yet was still considered to be a medicine,<br />

so it was marketed by pharmaceutical<br />

company, Menier. The company opened their<br />

first factory in 1814 and sold chocolate as a<br />

soothing yet mildly stimulating recreational<br />

drug. By the end of the 19th century, it was<br />

La famille du Duc de Penthièvre AKA the cup of chocolate,<br />

1768 Jean-Baptiste Charpentier le Vieux<br />

believed to be the world’s largest chocolate<br />

factory with plantations and railroads, and<br />

sold wrapped chocolate bars, recognisable as<br />

the chocolate we know and love today.<br />

France’s hold over chocolate may have waned<br />

over the last century, especially with Menier<br />

being absorbed by global conglomerate<br />

Nestle, but there is still an illicit charm to<br />

French chocolate. The devilish chocolate<br />

truffle is uniquely French, allegedly created<br />

by the Dufour family in 1895. La Maison du<br />

Chocolat and Valrhona are two high-quality<br />

French brands loved around the world, and<br />

we must not forget the one and only pain au<br />

chocolat – France’s disguised excuse to eat<br />

chocolate for breakfast – and of course, the<br />

very French chocolat chaud, a taste of an<br />

abandoned opulence.<br />

66 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 67

Hyères, the Presqu’île<br />

Hyères in the Cote d’Azur, southern France has it all – sun, sea, sand, stunning<br />

architecture, superb restaurants, delicious local wines and the chance to go island<br />

hopping says local Aaron James.<br />

and its Islands:<br />


of the Côte d’Azur<br />

A sunny ‘Belle Epoque’ town of the French<br />

Riviera, this beautiful coastal hub boasts 2,400<br />

years of history and is home to remarkable<br />

natural heritage such as the National Park of<br />

Port-Cros and the Ile d’Or Archipelago.<br />

History lovers will adore the intricate medieval<br />

quarter and ancient Greek archaeological site.<br />

There are perfect conditions for water sports<br />

and remarkable wildlife for those who love the<br />

Beach Hyères<br />

outdoors. And if you want to relax by the sea,<br />

you’re totally spoilt for choice with numerous<br />

coves and glorious soft sand beaches spread<br />

along the Presqu’île de Giens and its islands.<br />

Few foreign tourists choose to holiday in<br />

Hyères, opting instead for the town’s glitzy<br />

neighbour St Tropez. While this won’t mean<br />

that hotels and restaurants are empty (it’s<br />

a favourite with the French), it certainly<br />

means that the area possesses a more<br />

authentic, ‘unspoilt’ feeling.<br />

A little bit of history<br />

As the oldest resort on the French Riviera, it<br />

is hardly surprising that the town is steeped<br />

in history. You can’t help but marvel at<br />

the remains of the Hellenic city of Olbia,<br />

established in 4BC, or at the ancient Greek<br />

archaeological site near Almanarre beach.<br />

Meanwhile, just up the road, there was a<br />

Roman settlement at Pomponiana.<br />

Pass through the Porte de la Rade, erected<br />

in the late twelfth century, and you’ll feel<br />

as if you’ve stepped back in time as you<br />

stroll the town’s medieval winding streets<br />

and ogle the centuries old houses. Don’t<br />

miss the Tour de Blaise as you check out<br />

the delicious delicatessens and lively<br />

fishmongers, artisan shops and booksellers<br />

en route. Also known as the Tour des<br />

Templiers, this tower is the last vestige of a<br />

larger chapel constructed by the Knights<br />

Templar some eight hundred years ago.<br />

Nowadays, it serves as a cultural space and<br />

hosts many theatrical shows.<br />

Although in ruins, the castle which<br />

overlooks Hyères has not lost its majesty.<br />

Gazing across the Provençal countryside,<br />

and out towards the peninsula, it’s easy to<br />

imagine how it looked in the 16th century.<br />

68 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 69

Hyères<br />

Calanque du Maure - Hyeres and Toulon on the mainland in the background<br />

Your Corner of Paradise on the Côte d'Azur<br />

5 hectare site, with views of the Meditarranean and beautiful pine groves<br />

Hyères has long attracted artists and writers,<br />

including Victor Hugo and R.L. Stevenson,<br />

and the 100-year-old this year Villa Noailles,<br />

now open to the public, was a magnet for the<br />

avant-garde artists of the early 20th century<br />

from Jean Cocteau to Pablo Picasso.<br />

paths for exhilarating bike rides under pure<br />

blue skies. On the eastern side, the unspoilt<br />

Badine beach offers the perfect conditions<br />

for both thrilling water sports and relaxed<br />

sunbathing as well as yoga on the beach.<br />

The best of the south of<br />

France on your doorstep<br />

Apartments, villas<br />

and hotel<br />

Beachside bar and<br />

restaurant<br />

Watersports centre<br />

Private beach and pool<br />

Gastronomy<br />

Being by the sea means that seafood<br />

favourites like moules frîtes and bouillabaisse<br />

are popular on menus and there are many<br />

great restaurants in and around the old town<br />

and the Port d’Hyères. Afternoons whiled<br />

away here, with a glass of perfectly chilled<br />

wine in the sun, is true Riviera living.<br />

There are lively weekly markets at both<br />

Hyères and on the Giens Peninsula where<br />

you can find the very best of Provence’s fruit<br />

and vegetables, cheeses and plenty of baked<br />

goods too.<br />

The Presqu’île<br />

The Presqu’île – a much more romantic way<br />

to say peninsula – stretches its reach into<br />

the deep blue Mediterranean and is home to<br />

several seaside resorts and wild flamingos.<br />

To the west, marvel at kite surfers floating<br />

their colourful kites along the 4km long<br />

Plage d’Almanarre. And, on especially clear<br />

days, you can see the harbours at Toulon<br />

and Carqueiranne. The saltmarshes, with<br />

their famous flamingos, provide the perfect<br />

The island of Porquerolles<br />

At the tip of the Presqu’íle is Tour Fondue, a<br />

small port named after its 16th century fort.<br />

From here ferries leave daily to the islands<br />

off the coast of Hyères. The most famous of<br />

them is Porquerolles – often compared to<br />

the Caribbean due to its relaxed atmosphere<br />

and clear blue waters. Since cars aren’t<br />

allowed here, the best way to see the island<br />

is by bike – you’ll find plenty of bike hire<br />

companies along the harbour.<br />

Although there are restaurants, bars and<br />

a hotel on the island, the Plage de Notre<br />

Dame is best enjoyed with a hearty picnic of<br />

fresh baguette, sundried tomatoes and the<br />

cheese you bought from the morning market<br />

– and a glass of local rosé.<br />

Get there: Flights operate from Gatwick to<br />

Toulon (20 minutes by car), from June<br />

to September<br />

Stay at: Domaine de la Mer, offers hotel<br />

rooms, apartments, villas and cottages on<br />

the edge of the beach, a little corner of<br />

Paradise: domainedelamer.com<br />

At the Domaine, the environment is at<br />

the heart of everything we do<br />

Talented kitchen team which<br />

specially selects fresh, local produce.<br />

Organic cleaning products which are<br />

good for the evironment and our<br />

guests.<br />

Bedding made from 100% recycled<br />

material, 28% of which from the sea.<br />

To find out more and book for the summer:<br />

+33 4945 82101 - contact@domainedelamer.com<br />

Stay up to date...<br />

FOR AUTUMN <strong>2023</strong><br />

Le Domaine des Artistes:<br />

Enjoy seminars from a range<br />

of writers, academics and<br />

philosophers on a variety of<br />

interesting topics every<br />

weekend, culminating in our<br />

first Ideqs Festival in June<br />

2024.<br />

Activities for all the family<br />

Watersports centre Le Domaine de la Glisse<br />

offering classes in paddleboarding,<br />

kayaking, kitesurfing and more!<br />

Entertainment every night of the summer at<br />

our famous beachside restaurant.<br />

Badminton and volleyball court, bike rental,<br />

classes in yoga, HIIT, boxing and pilates.<br />

NEW - NEW - NEW - NEW - NEW - NEW - NEW - NEW -<br />

70 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 71

Jeremy Flint explores the extraordinary Mont-Saint-Michel and uncovers the secret<br />

parts and the must-sees plus what to see and do in the area.<br />

Mont-Saint-Michel,<br />

Normandy<br />

Mont-Saint-Michel is a remarkable tidal<br />

island located in the Manche department,<br />

Normandy. Sitting just off the impressive<br />

coastline between Normandy and Brittany,<br />

this is one of France’s most impressive<br />

sights. The mount’s spectacular Abbey is the<br />

crowning glory, perched atop a rocky outcrop<br />

in the heart of the bay which provides breathtaking<br />

views from all around.<br />

One of the most popular attractions in the<br />

country, second only to the Eiffel Tower, both<br />

the abbey and the bay have held UNESCO<br />

World Heritage status since 1979. The iconic<br />

sanctuary has been attracting pilgrims for<br />

centuries, with vast numbers drawn to the<br />

scenic splendour, beautiful buildings and the<br />

glory of Saint Michael. For centuries, devotees<br />

would risk crossing the bay with strong tides<br />

and precarious quicksands to reach this<br />

spiritual place. Even today, a stream of around<br />

3 million visitors and pilgrims flock each year<br />

to the island and its spectacular bay.<br />

Whether you arrive on foot, by bike or by bus<br />

along the permanent path that connects the<br />

island to the mainland, there are a wealth of<br />

things to explore from the authentic, medieval<br />

streets to the historic ramparts, the Abbey,<br />

and its cloisters.<br />

You can’t help but be wowed by the<br />

fortified walls and towers of this worldfamous<br />

landmark that rises up to the<br />

clustered buildings of the village. Pass the<br />

drawbridge and enjoy a stroll through the<br />

Grande Rue (main street) lined with fine<br />

hotels, restaurants and shops. Sample the<br />

local cuisine at La Mère Poulard (Mother<br />

Poulard), which serves omelettes cooked on<br />

an open-wood fire, a gastronomic emblem.<br />

Developed by Annette Boutiaut Poulard<br />

in the 19th century, they are described as<br />

‘the most famous omelettes in the world’<br />

and have been enjoyed by many renowned<br />

visitors including Ernest Hemingway, Winston<br />

Churchill and even Marilyn Monroe. The<br />

Drawbridge<br />

Auberge de la Mère Poulard is also a great<br />

place to stay on the island.<br />

Visit the village museums that resurrect the<br />

history of the site, and explore the hidden<br />

walkways round the ramparts for excellent<br />

panoramic views. Stop by the 15th and 16th<br />

century parish church of St Peter, a place of<br />

devotion to the Archangel Michael for pilgrims<br />

arriving at the mount. Don’t miss the statue<br />

of Saint Michael slaying the dragon inside the<br />

side chapel. The church provides the perfect<br />

oasis to pause and take a break from the<br />

hustle and bustle of the Grand Rue before<br />

climbing the steep, lung-busting stairways to<br />

the Abbey.<br />

72 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 73

The Grand Degré, a narrow staircase of 350<br />

steps leads you to the Abbey entrance. Here<br />

you can experience the splendour of the abbey<br />

and explore the labyrinth of buildings linked by<br />

suspended passageways over three floors.<br />

Inside the magnificent Gothic-style<br />

Benedictine Abbey, the imposing 11th century<br />

nave is an impressive sight with its grand<br />

arches, galleries and tall windows. Services<br />

are still held here daily (except Mondays) and<br />

there are weekend masses.<br />

The west terrace offers a unique view of the<br />

spire of the church tower mounted with a gravitydefying,<br />

gilded copper statue of Saint Michael<br />

and views of the Breton town of Cancale to the<br />

west, the cliffs of Normandy to the east and the<br />

archipelago of the Chausey Isles (where granite<br />

was sourced to build the abbey) out to sea. Here,<br />

you can also appreciate the small monastic<br />

and village gardens from above.<br />

The walkway continues around a courtyard<br />

through the cloisters, small columns create<br />

constantly changing views before arriving in<br />

the refectory, and it’s here that monks once<br />

ate their meals in reverent silence. Finally, you<br />

can descend to the underground crypts and<br />

their magnificent stone pillars supporting the<br />

weight of the church and acknowledge this<br />

true architectural marvel.<br />

Tombelaine Islet<br />

Cloisters<br />

Back at the base of the mount, you can walk<br />

in the bay up to the Islet of Tombelaine on<br />

a guided tour and discover the quicksands<br />

and bird life – the islet is a bird reserve and<br />

Statue st Micheal<br />

protected breeding ground for gulls and<br />

passerines. Alternatively, take a hike along the<br />

coastline for the most beautiful views of Mont-<br />

Saint-Michel.<br />

Dine at: Restaurant La Ferme St Michel<br />

Sample salt marsh lamb and whelk specialities<br />

served in the airy, stone-walled farmhouse,<br />

Route du Mont-Saint-Michel, La Caserne.<br />

When to visit<br />

June to August is one of the best times to visit<br />

with the warmest temperatures in Normandy<br />

and pleasant weather but be aware that these<br />

are also the busiest months and Mont-Saint-<br />

Michel can be very crowded. Another great<br />

time to visit is during Spring with the largest<br />

tides in Europe surrounding the Mont and you<br />

can witness an extraordinary sight as the Mont<br />

becomes an island, enveloped by the ocean.<br />

What to see and do nearby:<br />

Avranches<br />

Extend your visit and discover the other<br />

delights of the bay and surroundings. In nearby<br />

Avranches, there is a Scriptorial museum<br />

which guards and preserves the Abbey’s<br />

ancient manuscripts which were found in the<br />

Abbey treasury. Take some additional time to<br />

see Avranches’ amazing architecture including<br />

charming churches, the old castle and the<br />

majestic town hall.<br />

Dine at: La Toque Aux Vins, a newly<br />

refurbished bistro and bar that the locals<br />

love for the relaxed ambience and exquisite<br />

cuisine, 8 Rue de la Mairie.<br />

Stay at: La Croix d’Or, a charming<br />

hotel-restaurant (and former coaching<br />

inn) in the centre of Avranches, 83 Rue<br />

de la Constitution.<br />

Moidrey Windmill and salt marsh sheep<br />

One of the highlights of the peaceful<br />

landscapes around the bay is the Moulin de<br />

Moidrey, a stunning Norman windmill, located<br />

within 5 kilometres of Mont Saint Michel. Also,<br />

inland from Mont Saint Michel you can see<br />

sheep graze on the salt marshes at low tide<br />

and enjoy this distinctive agricultural practice.<br />

Dine at: the nearby Le Grillon in Pontorson<br />

with tasty pancakes and an awesome grill, 37<br />

Rue Couesnon.<br />

74 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 75

Saint Malo @NickHallFineArt<br />

Cancale<br />

West of Mont Saint Michel, the headland<br />

offers a picturesque coastline dotted with<br />

oyster farms and wonderful views where La<br />

Pointe du Grouin provides one of the best<br />

outlooks to sea and further west towards Saint<br />

Malo. Visit the Ferme Marine oyster farm to<br />

learn about the history and heritage of oyster<br />

farming and sample these fantastic delights of<br />

the ocean.<br />

Saint-Malo<br />

The beautiful town of Saint-Malo and its natural<br />

harbour are a wonderful place to explore where<br />

the ramparts rise proudly above the beaches<br />

and port making it a unique sight. Unearth<br />

Saint-Malo’s beauty and charm with a walk<br />

along the historic walls, visit the Chateau and<br />

marvel at the old city views from the lookout<br />

towers, then see the wonders of the sea at the<br />

aquarium before refuelling at a creperie.<br />

Visit a farm<br />

Finally, with farming being such an important<br />

way of life in the region, seize the opportunity<br />

to visit one of the local farms and enjoy their<br />

local products. Cara-Meuh farm in Vains is<br />

an organic, third generation farm in the bay<br />

of Mont Saint Michel that produce delicious<br />

products including cheese, cream, butter,<br />

milk, eggs, honey, pork, beef and their famous<br />

artisanal caramels (made from their very own<br />

milk and butter) with different flavours from<br />

salted butter to chocolate and apple, a local<br />

delicacy of the region. Tour the farm and<br />

treat yourself to their goods in the farm shop,<br />

besides other local produce.<br />

INFO<br />

For more information about visiting Mont<br />

Saint Michel and the bay (including parking<br />

and entry tickets to the Abbey), times of<br />

services in the abbey, and to find out about<br />

hotels on the island (which is how Jeremy got<br />

to see it like this – empty of visitors!) visit<br />

ot-montsaintmichel.com<br />

<strong>2023</strong> is a special year that marks the<br />

millennium since the Romanesque<br />

abbey’s construction in 1023. The Mont<br />

will celebrate 1000 years of history and<br />

creation with activities and exhibitions<br />

between May and November including a<br />

summer solstice light show.<br />

Listen to the most beautiful<br />

French songs on your mobile,<br />

Smart TV, Radioline, TuneIn etc.<br />

parischanson.fr<br />


• Homestay at your certified private tutor’s residence<br />

• Learn French & discover culture in the most beautiful places in France<br />


Tailor-made courses, guided conversations, French life<br />

slimmersion-france.com<br />

76 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 77


Never underestimate the power of the imagination. Gillian Thornton enjoys the<br />

medieval fantasy that is Château de Pierrefonds.<br />

Walking steadily up through the grounds of<br />

Château de Pierrefonds, I half expect to<br />

see Cinderella come running down the path<br />

towards me. Or maybe Rapunzel letting her<br />

hair down from one of the gleaming white<br />

towers. Even a fire-breathing dragon wouldn’t<br />

surprise me, though I’d certainly hope he was<br />

friendly. Because here at the Château de<br />

Pierrefonds, anything seems possible.<br />

The small town of Pierrefonds nestles in the<br />

far south of the Hauts de France region in the<br />

department of Oise. There has been a fortress<br />

on the hill here since the 11th century, but in<br />

1393, Louis of Orléans, younger brother of<br />

Charles VI was created Count of Valois. And,<br />

in a stirring story of family power play, Louis<br />

promptly ordered the construction of three<br />

new castles, including a rebuild at Pierrefonds.<br />

Using state of the art medieval design and<br />

technology, The Count commissioned an<br />

impenetrable fortress, designed to repel his<br />

cousin Jean sans Peur, Duke of Burgundy, as<br />

they fought for the French crown. But in 1407,<br />

Louis’s takeover plans came crashing down<br />

when he was assassinated by the devious Duke.<br />

The Count’s lavishly decorated castle<br />

remained empty until the early 17th century<br />

when enemies of Louis XIII took refuge<br />

behind its seemingly impenetrable walls. Bad<br />

decision. Artillery weapons had moved on<br />

and Pierrefonds was no longer impenetrable.<br />

Captured by the king’s troops, it was<br />

subsequently dismantled, a threat to royal<br />

supremacy no more.<br />

So how am I now able to walk beneath<br />

magnificent round towers with ornate<br />

medieval turrets, through an impressive<br />

gateway, and into an ornate inner courtyard to<br />

the foot of a magnificent staircase? For that,<br />

we have to thank not kings, but emperors.<br />

Fast forward to the 19th century and the age<br />

of Romanticism when artists arrived to paint<br />

the ruined walls at Pierrefonds and writers<br />

dreamed amongst its old stones. In 1811,<br />

Napoleon I bought the crumbling castle, but<br />

it was his nephew, Napoleon III, who was to<br />

breathe new life into Pierrefonds.<br />

The Emperor already owned a grand imperial<br />

palace across the forest at Compiegne where<br />

he held lavish receptions designed to impress,<br />

but he wanted a private residence too where his<br />

close family could stay. The ruins at Pierrefonds<br />

– barely ten miles from Compiègne – offered<br />

enormous possibilities in the right hands.<br />

78 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 79

Pierrefonds chapel<br />

Pierrefonds interior<br />

Enter Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, the must-have<br />

architect of the age, who was passionate<br />

about the medieval period and had travelled<br />

widely in Italy and France with his friend<br />

Prosper Mérimée, then inspector of historic<br />

monuments. Mérimée entrusted his travel<br />

companion with the restoration of important<br />

religious and civic buildings including the<br />

Cathedral of Notre-Dame in Paris, Mont<br />

Saint-Michel in Normandy, and the walled city<br />

of Carcassonne. Pierrefonds was to be his last,<br />

and arguably most imaginative project.<br />

Viollet-le-Duc began work at Pierrefonds<br />

in 1857, but to modern standards, his idea<br />

of restoration is somewhat controversial.<br />

‘Restoring a building is not maintaining,<br />

repairing or redoing it,’ he declared. ‘It’s<br />

restoring it to a complete state that may never<br />

have existed at a given time.’ In the process,<br />

he wasn’t beyond removing original features.<br />

So rather than an authentic medieval rebuild,<br />

the Château de Pierrefonds we see today is<br />

Viollet-le-Duc’s idea of how he felt a castle<br />

from the Middle Ages should look. Fanciful<br />

it may be, but his work had a hugely positive<br />

influence on public interest in historic<br />

monuments, and his illustrated books on<br />

architecture would be used by generations of<br />

architects to come.<br />

So as I walk up through the park on a sunny<br />

summer day beneath eight soaring white<br />

towers, I’m not surprised to see a carved figure<br />

adorning each one. Not medieval knights<br />

though, but famous warrior kings from across<br />

the centuries including David and Joshua,<br />

Caesar, Alexander the Great, and King Arthur.<br />

Step into the inner courtyard and the style<br />

changes again. I’m no architect but I do<br />

know a Renaissance window when I see one,<br />

although I’ve never seen rooftops embellished<br />

with stone cats before, a nod to Viollet-le-<br />

Duc’s own cat who kept him company while<br />

he worked. If you have young ones with you,<br />

download the children’s activity booklet and<br />

complete the puzzles with Théobald the cat as<br />

your guide.<br />

Whichever way I turn, I spot another<br />

eye-catching feature. Three giant stone<br />

salamanders with gaping mouths embellish<br />

blank walls, whilst an equestrian statue<br />

of Louis I of Orléans stands by the grand<br />

staircase that leads to the main entrance.<br />

Inside there are more surprises. The castle’s<br />

permanent exhibition presents decorative<br />

pieces from the Monduit workshops, famous<br />

for their sheet metal work, which features<br />

here at Pierrefonds. And on the chapel<br />

gate, Viollet-le-Duc is depicted in pilgrim’s<br />

clothing, accompanied by Louis of Orléans<br />

and his wife Valentine Visconti of Milan.<br />

In medieval times, the castle keep would<br />

have contained the apartments of the<br />

ruling family, the last retreat in the event<br />

of a siege. At Pierrefonds, you can expect<br />

lavish decoration around the walls ranging<br />

from carved animals and plants to symbols<br />

of the Empire. And as the last word in 19th<br />

century home comforts, you’ll even find<br />

flushing toilets.<br />

The castle cellars date back to the 14th<br />

century but the vaults were rebuilt in the 19th<br />

century and it is here that I find Le Bal des<br />

Gisants, one of the most unexpected exhibits<br />

at Pierrefonds. A gisant is a recumbent statue<br />

usually found on tombs and this collection<br />

of replicas was commissioned by King<br />

Louis Philippe to pay tribute to an eclectic<br />

collection of figures who had brought glory to<br />

France across the centuries, including Louis<br />

d’Orléans, builder of Pierrefonds. Originally<br />

kept at Versailles, the gisants are now kept<br />

here, atmospherically displayed beneath<br />

moving coloured lights against a soundtrack of<br />

whispered poems<br />

Viollet-le-Duc’s fanciful interpretation of the<br />

Middle Ages may not please visitors who come<br />

to Pierrefonds hoping for a true-life medieval<br />

experience, but I loved it. Not authentic for<br />

sure, but quirky, imaginative and beautiful<br />

in its own unique way. Pierrefonds was one<br />

of several European castles that inspired<br />

Walt Disney for classic tales such as Sleeping<br />

80 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 81

Beauty, Cinderella and Snow White, and it<br />

has been used as a film set for many movie<br />

directors since.<br />

Last stop for visitors is the model castle,<br />

made in stone for the Exposition Universelle<br />

in Paris in 1878 and weighing 4500 kg.<br />

Created under the guidance of Lucjan<br />

Wyganowski, inspector of the castle works,<br />

it was designed to show the public the scale<br />

and importance of the reconstruction works.<br />

Nearly 150 years later, it still has the power<br />

to amaze.<br />

Begun in 1857, Viollet-le-Duc’s fantasy<br />

castle took more than 20 years to complete<br />

and was unfinished at the time of his<br />

death in 1879. But the work was carried<br />

out according to the master’s plans by his<br />

son-in-law, artist Maurice Ouradou. Finally<br />

completed in 1884, this fairy tale castle<br />

never became an Imperial residence but<br />

opened to the public in 1867, a stunning<br />

museum of medieval architecture with just a<br />

few more contemporary extras!<br />

Bal des Gisants<br />

Château de Pierrefonds is open daily,<br />

apart from 1 January, 1 May and 25<br />

December. For opening hours, see<br />

chateau-pierrefonds.fr<br />

For information on local walking trails,<br />

heritage visits and remembrance<br />

sites, visit destination-pierrefonds.fr<br />

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82 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 83

As a colour enthusiast, I well remember my<br />

first months in the Bearn, walking around local<br />

villages with my head constantly cranking<br />

upwards, then forwards, then up again as I<br />

collected photos of shutters and doors in their<br />

hundreds. I saw shutters in my sleep; subtle<br />

shades of blue so close to one another…<br />

yet just different enough to make me revisit<br />

those houses again and again. What was<br />

it that made them so special, I wondered;<br />

there couldn’t have been that many shades<br />

available fifty or sixty years ago when they<br />

were painted. And then I realised: this was<br />

the baked-in patina. I began to notice that<br />

the blue-painted shutters and doors on southfacing<br />

sides of the buildings were slightly<br />

more sun-faded compared with their northfacing<br />

cousins; these were more weatherbeaten<br />

in appearance, after decades of<br />

being battered by storms blown inland from<br />

the Atlantic. Some paint colours were so<br />

old – and flaking away badly – that only a<br />

single precious chip remained, clinging to the<br />

timber. It was at this stage that I decided to<br />

start collecting samples and convert each one<br />

Orthez<br />

How to find<br />

the perfect<br />

French blue<br />

Sara Silm, photographer, stylist and author of How to French Country, lives in a<br />

Béarnaise village at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, from where she shares<br />

her love of the many shades of French blues and greens<br />

84 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 85

into an international paint code that could be<br />

authentically reproduced to create an exact<br />

version of the original.<br />

Like any collector, I wanted to keep a record,<br />

an archive, safely stored away. But I also did it<br />

because there’s one question I’m always asked<br />

by people who’ve visited France and left with a<br />

burning desire to bring a little bit of it back to<br />

their home: ‘How do I find the perfect French<br />

blue?’ (Followed by: ‘where would I find that<br />

beautiful green door colour?’…)<br />

There are certainly plenty of commercial<br />

colours that fulfil this brief to perfection,<br />

and I’ve arranged a series of colour choices<br />

for you. But what you can’t find in a paint<br />

catalogue are the paint codes I’ve created<br />

myself. I’ve collected these colours in the<br />

same way a mad botanist walks the fields and<br />

mountains collecting plants and seeds. Some<br />

of them will never be seen again, because<br />

their years of patina will have disintegrated<br />

into tiny fragments by the time you read this…<br />

The colours have been categorised into the<br />

towns in which they were found and paired<br />

with their National Colour System (NCS) to<br />

create a kind of colour by numbers, if you will.<br />

So, if you see a colour that would be perfect<br />

for you, simply take the code to a paint-supply<br />

store with the facilities for mixing international<br />

paint colours and, with the shake of a tin, it will<br />

be yours.<br />


https://frenchcountryadventures.com/<br />

Just one example of many colour charts in the book<br />

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yourself with French country style<br />

wherever you are. Capturing the beauty<br />

and tranquility of the region, interior<br />

designer and journalist Sara Silm distills<br />

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86 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 87

Your Photos<br />

Rue Galande Paris,<br />

by Dawne Polis<br />

In the 5th<br />

arrondissement<br />

(district) of Paris, a<br />

stone’s throw from<br />

the great Cathedral<br />

of Notre Dame is a<br />

rather secret part of<br />

the city nicknamed the<br />

Latin Quarter or the<br />

Sorbonne district…<br />

Find out more: Secret<br />

Paris – the Sorbonne<br />

district<br />

Every weekend we invite you to share<br />

your photos on Facebook and Twitter –<br />

it’s a great way for everyone to “see”<br />

real France and be inspired by real<br />

travellers snapping pics as they go.<br />

Every week there are utterly gorgeous<br />

photos being shared, and here we<br />

showcase just a few of the most<br />

popular. Share your favourite photos<br />

with us and the most ‘liked’ will appear<br />

in the next issue of The Good Life<br />

France Magazine<br />

Lavender field in Vaucluse, Provence by<br />

Elmar Pogrzeba<br />

Discover the most picturesque lavender spots in<br />

Provence: Lavender fields photo guide<br />

Join us on Facebook and<br />

Twitter to like and share<br />

your favourite photos of<br />

France...<br />

Claude Monet’s Garden, Giverny,<br />

Normandy by Anne Bruner<br />

Find out more about Monet’s garden<br />

and take a free virtual tour (link in post):<br />

Monet’s Garden, Normandy<br />

88 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 89

What’s<br />

NEW<strong>Summer</strong> <strong>2023</strong><br />

Major Anniversaries<br />

50th year of the Marc Chagall National<br />

Museum in Nice, inaugurated by the artist in<br />

1973. Dedicated exhibitions from 28 January<br />

<strong>2023</strong> to 8 January 2024.<br />

60 years of the Matisse National Museum in<br />

Nice, temporary exhibitions plus concerts and<br />

heritage tours throughout <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

Celebrating France’s National Parks: Happy<br />

50th to Écrins National Park (1973) and 60th<br />

anniversary of the world’s first marine park<br />

was created (1963), in Hyères, Port-Cros<br />

National Park .<br />

Son et Lumières show at the Abbaye de<br />

Valloires, Somme. French screenwriter,<br />

director and artistic director Bruno Seillier<br />

has designed a magical journey in the<br />

gorgeous gardens and ancient corridors of<br />

the abbey, retracing 900 years of history at<br />

the Cistercian Abbey. You’ll feel as if you’ve<br />

stepped straight into a fairy tale.<br />

What’s on<br />

Calvi on the Rocks, Corsica 3 June-3 July.<br />

Visual arts, electronic music and the Corsican<br />

art of living form an artistic course through the<br />

city, the beaches and the citadel of Calvi.<br />

Abbey Valloires<br />

Moving to France<br />

There’s loads going on throughout France this summer – here’s our pick of some of<br />

the best events this season…<br />

Plus here’s our handpicked choice of the best tours and places to stay: Best of France <strong>2023</strong><br />

Across France<br />

Fête de la Musique: 21 June <strong>2023</strong>, France’s<br />

national music day features everything from<br />

street parties to major concerts - pop to rock,<br />

jazz to classical and everything in between.<br />

July 14: a national holiday in France,<br />

commemorates the French Revolution of 1789.<br />

Festivities begin the night before with firemen’s<br />

balls held in fire stations and continue into the<br />

next day with military parades on the Champs<br />

Elysées, plus fireworks displays.<br />

Tour de France: 1 – 23 July <strong>2023</strong> The world’s<br />

most famous cycling competition takes in<br />

stunning French landscapes including this<br />

year - Bordeaux, Burgundy, Bayonne and<br />

Beaujolais, as well nail-biting sections of the<br />

French Alps before ending as always in Paris.<br />

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for US expats in France,<br />

wherever you are on your<br />

international journey…<br />

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90 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 91

Fête du Cognac, Cognac/Nouvelle Aquitaine – 27-29 July, <strong>2023</strong>. Takes place along the<br />

banks of the River Charentes and features concerts and local gastronomy, including of course<br />

the famed drink of the same name. Details: lafeteducognac.fr<br />

Festival d'Avignon © A Hocquel, Vaucluse Tourism<br />

Festival d’Avignon, Avignon, Provence – 5-25 July, <strong>2023</strong>. France’s most important theatre<br />

festival has a backdrop of the majestic Palais des Papes, the largest medieval gothic palace<br />

in the world. The event takes over the entire town with fabulous performances in the historic<br />

streets. Details: festival-avignon<br />

Cite des Climats de Bourgogne: A network<br />

of cultural and tourist venues dedicated to<br />

Burgundy wines opens to the public in mid-<br />

June. Known as the Cité des Climats and<br />

Bourgogne wines they are based in three key<br />

Burgundy wine producing areas: Chablis,<br />

Beaune and Mâcon. Discover the history and<br />

culture of Burgundy wines and take a tasting.<br />

Details: citeclimatsvins-bourgogne.com<br />

CroisiEurope launches new cruise through<br />

the captivating Oise Valley: Europe’s largest<br />

river cruise operator, CroisiEurope, has<br />

launched a brand-new 6-night, hotel barge<br />

cruise through France’s beautiful Oise Valley.<br />

Starting and ending in Paris, highlights include<br />

Château de Malmaison, bought by Napoleon<br />

Bonaparte for his wife Josephine, plus the<br />

Chateau de Chantilly, and a masterclass<br />

Macon Climats<br />

by a member of<br />

the Confrérie des<br />

Chevaliers Fouetteurs<br />

to learn how to<br />

make perfect crème<br />

Chantilly. It also<br />

takes in the Pissaro<br />

Museum in Pontoise,<br />

follows in the footsteps<br />

of Van Gogh at the<br />

Musée de l’Absinthe in<br />

Chantilly<br />

Auvers-sur-Oise, and<br />

the Armistice Memorial in Compiègne. Fully<br />

inclusive with gastronomic meals and great<br />

wines, bikes and jacuzzi.<br />

Details: croisieurope.co.uk<br />

Coming up<br />

Rugby World Cup<br />

France hosts the Rugby World Cup in <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

7 glorious weeks of sports: 48 matches, 660<br />

players, 20 teams from 5 continents, and 45<br />

days of rugby – and festivities. A whopping<br />

450,000 fans are expected to visit France<br />

and millions will watch the games on television<br />

all around the world.<br />

The matches take place in 9 host cities<br />

each with their own unique character and<br />

charm: Bordeaux, Lens, Lille, Lyon, Marseille,<br />

Nantes, Nice, Paris, St Denis, Saint-Étienne<br />

and Toulouse.<br />

The Olympic Games are coming!<br />

Around fifty official Games Preparation<br />

Centres are gearing up to welcome athletes<br />

prepping for the 2024 Olympic Games, with<br />

an Olympic sailing test event scheduled in the<br />

Bay of Marseille in early July. In September,<br />

skippers will be training for the 2024<br />

America’s Cup off the coast of Saint-Tropez.<br />

Meanwhile, Nice – the traditional venue for<br />

the Ironman France triathlon challenge every<br />

June – will be hosting the final of the men’s<br />

Ironman World Championship in September<br />

for the first time in 40 years.<br />

92 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 93

One thing you learn very quickly when you move to France is that you don’t really<br />

have a choice about the order in which you do things. That’s because you often need<br />

to complete one step in order to move on to the next step.<br />

Planning to live and<br />

work in France?<br />

Janine Marsh, shares some top tips…<br />

Whether you decide to buy or to rent, it usually<br />

means you’ll need a French bank account.<br />

That means you need to have an address<br />

– it can get complicated if you’ve sold your<br />

property to move to France but don’t have<br />

a permanent address yet. In order to have a<br />

French resident’s address, you need a visa<br />

(unless you live in a country that’s a member<br />

of the European Union). The visa entitles you<br />

to live in France which in turn enables you to<br />

apply for medical care.<br />

You may want to work in France, and that<br />

means you need to register to pay tax and<br />

social contributions.<br />

And yes, at times it can all feel a bit<br />

overwhelming, time-consuming and<br />

occasionally frustrating – but nothing<br />

ventured, nothing gained as the saying goes.<br />

Of course, if you don’t fancy dealing with all<br />

the paperwork yourself to become French<br />

resident and all that goes with it, there are<br />

companies that will help you and take the pain<br />

away. I got help with my move because I was<br />

working such long hours, I didn’t have time to<br />

deal with paperwork, answering questions by<br />

phone (I had to be interviewed at one point<br />

by one of the government bodies), registering<br />

on multiple systems, setting up to pay tax etc.<br />

For me it was worth every penny to get help.<br />

6 months from start to finish I had everything<br />

sorted including the Carte Vitale (access to<br />

the excellent health care service), being set up<br />

to work as a micro entrepreneur (freelance)<br />

and pay tax, plus sort out my Carte de Sejour,<br />

residency permit.<br />

Visas<br />

There are 17 different types of visas for France<br />

because one size does not fit all. Retirement<br />

visa, student visa, working visa etc. – there’s<br />

a different one to suit several situations, and<br />

there are strict criteria to suit the visa you<br />

94 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 95

want. Check on the French Government<br />

website to see which suits you best. It depends<br />

on where you live as to how long it takes to<br />

sort out a visa, but allow at least 2-3 months:<br />

france-visas.gouv.fr<br />

Once you’re in France, in order to stay<br />

permanently, you’ll need to apply for a Carte<br />

de Sejour. Read more about applying for visas<br />

and completing this process in detail here.<br />

Healthcare<br />

If you’re employed by a French company<br />

– you should get access to healthcare<br />

straightaway. If not, whether you’re retired or<br />

working for yourself, you’ll need to be resident<br />

in France for at least three months before you<br />

can apply.<br />

Vitale (healthcare), driving licence etc. Have<br />

the originals and, importantly, copies of these<br />

documents to hand. The chances are that<br />

you’ll need to send documents multiple times.<br />

And some authorities may require you to<br />

organise authorised translations. At the very<br />

least, here’s what you’re likely to need.<br />

• Birth certificate<br />

• Marriage certificate<br />

• Driving licence<br />

• Diplomas if thinking of setting up<br />

a business<br />

• Proof of purchase of home in France/proof<br />

of residency<br />

• Bank statements for last 12 months<br />

Working in France<br />

Some people retire, some people continue<br />

to work for the same company they did<br />

back home – but from France. Fast internet<br />

for home working is available in much of<br />

France (but if you do rely on this, check the<br />

area you’re buying in first – some places<br />

still have slow Broadband. If you want to<br />

earn an income in France then one of the<br />

most popular ways is to go freelance, and<br />

registering as a microentrepreneur is one of<br />

the most popular ways to do that. Basically<br />

it means you are the founder of a micro<br />

business, generally a small company with<br />

minimal investment. You’re restricted as<br />

to how much your business may turnover<br />

before needing to register as something else<br />

other than micro entrepreneur (currently it is<br />

between €77,700 and €188,700 per year,<br />

depending on what type of business it is).<br />

And certain types of business are excluded<br />

from becoming microentrepreneurs, for<br />

instance some finance companies, health<br />

professionals and accountants.<br />

fabulously easy.<br />

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Medical Insurance<br />

Home Insurance<br />

Car Insurance<br />

Visa Insurance<br />

and more<br />

We work with more than 30 insurers and many more providers so we are<br />

always able to find the best and most affordable solution for your situation.<br />

We’ve got you covered.<br />

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96 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 97

Becoming a<br />

micro entrepreneur<br />

We chat to micro entrepreneur Sophie<br />

Green, who is based in the Dordogne.<br />

Sophie works for Leggett Immobilier<br />

International as a sales agent in<br />

Dordogne as well as in neighbouring<br />

department Haute-Vienne.<br />

How did you come to be<br />

living in France?<br />

I lived in Northamptonshire in the UK, trained<br />

as a Legal Executive and as a Financial<br />

Advisor and Mortgage Advisor working<br />

within Solicitor practices. When I became<br />

pregnant with our first son Louis in 2008,<br />

my husband had an idea to open a sandwich<br />

shop in our village so instead of going back<br />

to work fulltime for someone else, I could<br />

be my own boss. I have to say, I have never<br />

worked so hard in my life. Then three years<br />

later I became pregnant with our second son,<br />

Freddie, and the thought of getting up at 5am<br />

to butter sandwiches lost its allure!<br />

We bought a caravan and decided to go on<br />

holiday to France. We fell in love with France<br />

from the minute we got here and immediately<br />

started house hunting. Just before this, my<br />

lovely mum had passed away. She had lived<br />

in the same village as us and life didn’t feel<br />

the same without her. We didn’t know exactly<br />

where we wanted to live and spent holidays<br />

travelling around Brittany and Dordogne.<br />

When we stayed in a very small rural campsite<br />

in Dordogne, we both knew this was it, our<br />

dream area. We found our house and moved<br />

to France in July 2013. My eldest was just<br />

about to start school in the UK so it was<br />

perfect timing for a move. He went straight<br />

into the local school in our village.<br />

How did you become a<br />

micro entrepreneur in<br />

France<br />

I was too young to retire, and I wanted a<br />

new challenge. In addition to our house,<br />

we bought some lakes nearby, run as<br />

GoGreen Holidays, and I looked after<br />

the rental of the onsite cabin and gypsy<br />

caravan. But I needed more from a job, I<br />

wanted to learn more French, to get out<br />

and meet people and explore the area.<br />

I have a love for property, and I love<br />

looking around houses. Working as an<br />

agent for Leggett Immobillier seemed a<br />

perfect fit.<br />

Leggett offered everything I needed and<br />

was flexible, so I could work around looking<br />

after the lakes and the children – by then<br />

we had another child, Francesca.<br />

What’s it like working<br />

as an agent for Leggett<br />

Immobillier in France?<br />

Leggett have exceeded my expectations. I<br />

joined them in 2018, after meeting with an<br />

Area Coordinator and chatting through the<br />

role which helped me to decide whether<br />

it was right for me. I completed a training<br />

course at Head Office which is in Dordogne.<br />

I really like that you get the benefits of<br />

working for a family-run business so you’re<br />

not just another number, but it’s also an<br />

award-winning, big international company<br />

so there’s a massive multi-lingual support<br />

network available to all agents.<br />

There’s a fantastic Sales Support Team who<br />

help organise all my visits, the Marketing<br />

Team do a great job promoting all the<br />

properties I list for sale, and the IT team have<br />

developed a fantastic back-office system to<br />

make life easier to manage the admin. There<br />

is also a terrific Legal and Contracts team to<br />

help with all the admin requirements and we<br />

are regularly updated with changes in laws.<br />

We have access to a lot of online training<br />

which is great and saves time with not having<br />

to travel. Plus, we’re assigned admin support,<br />

my fabulous assistant Zoe who is a fountain of<br />

knowledge, works in the Contracts Team and<br />

does all my compromis de vente work (sales<br />

documentation), and helps me manage all<br />

my sales.<br />

As an agent, it’s essential to be organised<br />

and flexible. You need to be able to manage<br />

not only your own time but also that of your<br />

vendor’s and clients.<br />

What’s it like being selfemployed?<br />

I run everything as a stand-alone business. I<br />

set up as a micro entrepreneur and it is quite<br />

a simple regime. I pay cotistations (French<br />

National Insurance) monthly, based on what<br />

98 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 99

ecoming a Leggett Agent so that he can help<br />

with viewings when I get really busy.<br />

Jessica Viel - Loire Valley<br />

There’s also scope for career progression in<br />

this job, in fact I have become a Coach and<br />

have my own small team now. I love helping<br />

new agents and supporting them in running<br />

their own successful small business in France.<br />

Helena Hermanns - Paris/Île-de-France<br />

I never thought of doing this job when I first<br />

came to France, but it’s changed my life, I<br />

earn a good income, I love what I do, I can<br />

manage how much I want to do, it’s flexible<br />

and there is potential to go further in the role<br />

if I want to.<br />

Andrea Bevan - Alpes<br />

Start a<br />

new career<br />

as an<br />

independent<br />

sales agent<br />

Elske Koelstra - PACA<br />

Andrew Guck - Occitanie<br />

Scan for more information<br />

I have earned, and I pay tax in one go at the<br />

end of the financial year.<br />

Because it’s a simple way to set up a business<br />

I get to spend more time on what I love<br />

doing – going out and finding new properties,<br />

exploring them and seeing what is hidden<br />

behind the front door! I also love meeting new<br />

people and getting out and about in the area.<br />

Deborah Cherry - Nouvelle-Aquitaine<br />

Daniela & Dickjan Poppema -<br />

Provence<br />

Declan McCann - Brittany<br />

It’s been a really successful business for me<br />

and in fact my husband is just in the process of<br />

Leggett Immobillier are recruiting agents in all areas – if you’re interested,<br />

find out more and contact them at.<br />

Recruitment@leggett.fr<br /><br />

QR Code “Request a Recruitment Brochure”<br />

Join our team in France and become part of a<br />

company unique in it’s field!<br />

If you would like the freedom to grow a successful business supported<br />

by an award winning team, please contact our recruitment department:<br />

www.leggettfrance.com<br />

+33 (0)5 53 60 82 77 recruitment@leggett.fr<br />

100 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 101

Narbonne<br />


on living in<br />

Languedoc Roussillon<br />

Some call Languedoc Roussillon the true<br />

South of France – especially those lucky<br />

enough to live there! Edged by the sea,<br />

Languedoc Roussillon always seems bathed in<br />

glorious sunshine. Its coastline stretches from<br />

very edge of Provence to the Spanish border<br />

and Catalonia – some 220kms.<br />

Languedoc’s name derives from the ancient<br />

romance language which once dominated this<br />

area. It’s still spoken, to greater or lesser extent,<br />

in southern France, northern Spain, Monaco<br />

and even parts of Italy. In this medieval<br />

language the customary word for yes was ‘oc’<br />

and it became known as langue d’oc. Langue<br />

d’oc split into increasingly distinct dialects -<br />

from Gascon to Catalan, and Provençal.<br />

Languedoc Roussillon stretches all around<br />

France's most eastern seaboard with the<br />

Mediterranean and now forms part of the<br />

larger administrative district of Occitanie.<br />

In some ways it almost appears to be an<br />

amphitheatre for this part of the Western<br />

Mediterranean with its terraced vineyards.<br />

Around one third of all French wine is<br />

produced in this sunny region. Reds tend to<br />

be full-bodied and fruit driven, then there's<br />

the 'black' wine of Cahors, Côtes de Nîmes,<br />

unoaked white wines, and the palest pink rosé.<br />

There's Cremant de Limoux – supposedly<br />

older than Champagne – and unctuous sweet<br />

wines from Muscat to Maury – the latter is<br />

reputed to last up to 100 years.<br />

And then there's the food... They say<br />

Languedoc Rousillon sits between the olive<br />

groves of Provence and the Landes of<br />

Gascony – you could say between garlic<br />

and foie gras – and they use the best of<br />

these ingredients in their dishes. The coast<br />

102 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 103

Montpellier<br />

Pezenas<br />

National Park Cevennes © Fred Tassart<br />

is always close by so of course this means<br />

fish and oysters, mussels, scallops and clams<br />

to be eaten with garlic shallots and parsley.<br />

The traditional Bourride of Sète is made<br />

from the bony anglerfish – closely related<br />

to bouillabaise from Provence with broth<br />

strained at the end of cooking before being<br />

thickened with delicious aioli. Brandade de<br />

Nîmes is well known in France, salt cod with<br />

a mixture of oil and milk and it tastes much<br />

better than it sounds! As soon as you head<br />

southwards towards Montpellier food starts<br />

to change – there are little pies – petit pâtes<br />

of Pezénas and Beziérs made with mutton,<br />

mutton fat, raisins, brown sugar. And then<br />

there is Cassoulet with varying recipes – the<br />

one from Toulouse includes goose or duck,<br />

mutton, famed Toulouse sausages, haricots<br />

and other delicious morsels. Then there are<br />

pâtés of foie gras and walnut. Olive oil is used<br />

in abundance, plus lots of game.<br />

Spain is not far away and the strong Catalan<br />

influence around the southernmost part of<br />

Languedoc Roussillon is reflected in both the<br />

wine and food. Banyuls, a delicious, fortified<br />

wine, comes from around the beautiful port<br />

of Collioure close to the border with Spain.<br />

Around here many of the dishes are cooked<br />

in the more robust Catalan style – including<br />

anchovy pâtés or cod cooked in a spicy<br />

mixture of aubergine, peppers and tomato.<br />

This part of France has only been French since<br />

the time of Cardinal Richelieu (chief Minister<br />

of Louis XIII and of the Three Musketeers time)<br />

so both the style of eating and living are a mix,<br />

and some of the older people still speak the<br />

local Catalan.<br />

The northernmost reaches of Languedoc take<br />

in the southern section of the Massif Central<br />

– the Haut Languedoc and Cévennes national<br />

park. These have traditionally been sparsely<br />

populated areas with extensive forests, fast<br />

flowing streams and have strong appeal for<br />

the adventurous or those who wish to fish for<br />

trout. Further south are Nîmes, with its Roman<br />

remains, and Montpellier closer to the sea.<br />

This area was less ‘well fought over’ than many<br />

other parts of France, so villages were less<br />

likely to have been built defensively. Many<br />

still have half-timbered village houses which,<br />

in summer when brilliant flowers fall lushly<br />

from balconnières to adorn stone grey walls,<br />

are very picturesque. Downstream from<br />

the spectacular gorges the river Tarn flows<br />

through beautiful pastoral landscapes en<br />

route to Albi. Midi Pyrénées lies open like a<br />

flat book between the Massif Central and the<br />

Pyrénées mountain range. Also inland are<br />

Carcassonne, Toulouse and the luscious rich<br />

countryside of the Midi Pyrénées.<br />

Inland Languedoc Rousillon is diverse and<br />

beautiful, as is the Mediterranean coast. The<br />

very first time I drove back from close to the<br />

Spanish border with my daughter I was struck<br />

by the sight of the white faced low mountain<br />

ranges over the coastal plains – painted so<br />

lovingly by Cézanne they had always seemed<br />

to be drawn from the improbable imagination<br />

of an Impressionist painter and yet here they<br />

are for real. Vast fishing areas lie to the right<br />

as you drive northwards. Oyster beds are<br />

nurtured here in the salt water étangs – the<br />

perfect place to stop for a seafood lunch.<br />

Collioure is popular with overseas buyers,<br />

as it was with Matisse. Not for nothing is this<br />

Toulouse<br />

104 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 105

Our latest properties for sale in Languedoc-Roussillon<br />

chalet villa château farmhouse apartment vineyard gîte cottage coast country city<br />

NImes<br />

fishing port known as the jewel of the Côte<br />

Vermeille. Moving further north, you cross the<br />

end of the Canal du Midi near Marseillan to<br />

arrive at Sète, the perfect place to watch the<br />

sun set sitting beside one of its canals for a<br />

splendid fish supper!<br />

There’s so much choice when it comes to<br />

where to live in Languedoc Roussillon and<br />

of course local agents know all villages and<br />

towns and can advise exactly what suits your<br />

dream list. Some of my favourites include the<br />

Catalan village of Fuilla from where it’s under<br />

an hour to the ski slopes or sea. It’s southwest<br />

of the ancient city of Prades, where Spanish<br />

guitarist Segovia lived for many years.<br />

Rieux en Val is an historical village between<br />

Carcassonne and Lezignan, with a Roman<br />

bridge famed for its appearance in the classic<br />

‘60s film ‘Le Miracle des Loups’.<br />

Pézenas is the most enchanting ancient town<br />

famed for antique shops and markets, ideally<br />

situated between the sea and hills of Haute<br />

Collioure © Maree Lavin<br />

Carcassonne © Michele Bond<br />

Languedoc close to Cap d’Agde and with a<br />

wonderful climate. Montpellier and Bèziers<br />

with their airports are also close by.<br />

The ancient town of St Hippolyte du Fort<br />

boasts no less than 17 fountains and several<br />

dozen sundials! Northwest of Nîmes on the<br />

road to the Cevennes national park, it's<br />

known for its ancient fort as well as an old<br />

silk factory.<br />

Carcassonne and the Roman city of<br />

Narbonne, about 45 minutes’ drive to the<br />

Mediterranean beaches and an hour and a<br />

half’s easy drive to Spain.<br />

With such a varied choice of towns and<br />

villages, Occitanie might be the perfect<br />

place to say ‘oc’ to a new life in the sun…<br />

Joanna Leggett is marketing director at<br />

Leggett Immobilier – you can view their full<br />

portfolio of properties for sale in France at<br />

www.leggettfrance.com<br />


Pyrénées-Orientales €519,400<br />

Ref: A20768 -Set of 2 houses with heated<br />

swimming pool, set on 2,725m² of land.<br />

6% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Energy class: G Climate class: C<br />


Full of Charm<br />

Vibrant Village<br />

Hérault €240,000<br />

Ref: A20924 - Gorgeous 3-bedroom house<br />

with 2 courtyards, in a sought-after village.<br />

7% agency fees included paid by the buyer.<br />

Energy class: D Climate class: B<br />


Spruce Me Up !<br />

Gard €92,950<br />

Ref: A20977 - Lovely 1-bedroom house<br />

to renovate in a charming village.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: E Climate class: B<br />


Lock Up And Leave<br />

Hérault €99,000<br />

Ref: A16697 - Exceptional 2-bedroom<br />

lock-up-and-leave holiday home.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: G Climate class: C<br />


Business Opportunity<br />

Pyrénées-Orientales €1,597,000<br />

Ref: A20565 -14-bedroom gîte complex<br />

with 3 pools, set on a large private plot.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: D Climate class: B<br />

Aude €625,000<br />

Ref: A21175 - Stunning 3-bedroom, 194m²<br />

villa with garden and pool in calm location.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: B Climate class: A<br />


Private Villa<br />

Aude €285,000<br />

Ref: A18633 - 3-bedroom villa with pool<br />

and 2,000m² garden, in a quiet location.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: D Climate class: B<br />


Gorgeous Garden<br />

Hérault €235,000<br />

Ref: A20507 - Beautifully designed 2-<br />

bedroom villa with landscaped garden.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: C Climate class: A<br />

Pyrénées-Orientales €416,000<br />

Ref: A20600 - Lovely property with a<br />

2-bedroom house and 2 studio apartments.<br />

Agency fees to be paid by the seller.<br />

Energy class: C Climate class: A<br />

Start your property search today!<br />

+33 (0)5 53 60 84 88 · leggettfrance.com · info@leggett.fr<br />

Information on the risks to which these properties are exposed is available on the Geohazards website:<br />

www.georisques .gouv.fr<br />

106 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 107


Mayenne in the Pays de la Loire is a<br />

landlocked department with three districts:<br />

Château-Gontier, Mayenne, and Laval. It’s<br />

a tranquil land of rivers and forests, small<br />

villages and historic towns, and it’s a place<br />

where the property prices, and a laid-back<br />

way of life, are seriously tempting.<br />

With a population of around 300,000,<br />

Mayenne is uncrowded. The department is<br />

named after the 121-mile-long River Mayenne,<br />

which, long abandoned by commercial traffic<br />

is now a popular cruising waterway and flows<br />

to Angers in neighbouring Maine-et-Loire, at<br />

the edge of the Loire Valley.<br />

The department takes a pinch of influence<br />

from its neighbours the Loire Valley,<br />

Normandy and Brittany and then it adds a<br />

little je ne sais quoi of its own. For instance,<br />

it has its own microclimate which means it’s<br />

warmer than Normandy. Like the Loire Valley,<br />

it’s lush and green and has fabulous vineyards<br />

and loads of Chateaux. And like Brittany,<br />

the local produce is delicious with the main<br />

industry of Mayenne being agricultural.<br />

Transport links for Mayenne are excellent.<br />

The fast TGV train links Laval to Paris in little<br />

over an hour, nearby Rennes airport has flights<br />

to several cities in the UK as well as Europe.<br />

Calais is 4.5 hours away by road and it’s a<br />

2.5-hour drive to Dieppe for the ferry service<br />

to Newhaven. Trains to Paris from Laval take<br />

from 1 hour and 44 minutes, and it’s just an<br />

hour to Le Mans by car.<br />

There are numerous cycle routes including<br />

the Velo Francette which runs through<br />

Mayenne’s glorious countryside and stretches<br />

from Ouistreham in Brittany to La Rochelle in<br />

Charente-Maritime. The Mayenne Valley is a<br />

network of hiking, walking and cycling paths,<br />

crossed by lakes and tributaries.<br />

Mayenne has flattish arable land in the south<br />

and more rolling hills to the north. There are<br />

thriving towns, and the department has a rich<br />

history and plenty of cultural treasures such as<br />

the magnificent grottoes at Saulges with cave<br />

paintings from pre-history, the 2000-yearold<br />

Roman capital of Jublains, as well as the<br />

astonishing Robert Tatin Museum near Laval.<br />

108 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 109

The largest city is Laval, the capital, though<br />

it’s the sort of small city where you can walk<br />

everywhere quite easily. It’s a designated<br />

“town of art and history” and very pretty.<br />

There's plenty to see and do in the town.<br />

On market days (Tuesday and Saturday),<br />

in Place de la Trémoille, steaming pans of<br />

paella, roasted chickens and huge bowls of<br />

buttery new potatoes stop you in your tracks.<br />

Jet black shiny mussels are bagged up by<br />

vendors at a rate of knots, alongside plump<br />

oysters from Cancale. At one end of Place de<br />

la Trémoille a church looms and its bells toll<br />

on the hour. Its mellow stone walls a brilliant<br />

backdrop for the market. At the other end is<br />

the chateau of the Lords of Laval, its bright<br />

white exterior glistens in the sunshine. Now<br />

an art venue which hosts one of the largest<br />

naieve art collection in France and features<br />

major works by Henri Rousseau who was born<br />

in the town. In the side streets are cobbled<br />

wiggly roads and half-timbered houses, cosy<br />

cafés, dinky creperies and bistros. Don’t miss<br />

the local cheese specialities: the famous<br />

Port-Salut is made at Entrammes, just outside<br />

Laval. Other Mayenne-made cheeses include<br />

Chamois d’or, Chaussée aux Moines, Vieux<br />

Pané, Saint Paulin, Rouy, Babybel, Bons<br />

Mayennais and Président.<br />

The department is a leading dairy producer<br />

which make it an ideal choice for the world’s<br />

largest dairy museum Lactopole in Laval.<br />

Once hardly known even to the French,<br />

Mayenne has become more popular in the<br />

last few years as home buyers seek tranquil<br />

locations with plenty of space, surrounded<br />

by countryside. Property prices remain<br />

affordable with plenty of bargains to be found,<br />

especially for those willing to take on some<br />

renovation. Being a somewhat undiscovered<br />

area means that there is plenty of reasonably<br />

priced property from chateaux – possibly the<br />

most famous being that of Dick and Angel<br />

Strawbridge of Escape to the Chateau whose<br />

Chateau de la Motte Husson is about 20km<br />

from Laval - to farmhouses, farm workers<br />

cottages and traditional stone houses. For<br />

those seeking equestrian properties, Mayenne<br />

is definitely an area to consider with lots of<br />

space and properties with lots of land.<br />

The warm weather arrives early in spring and<br />

can last right through to October or even<br />

November. In winter it can get cold, but rarely<br />

snows and the cold months don’t last too long.<br />

If you’re looking for a tranquil and sunny area,<br />

where property prices are tempting then this<br />

could be just the place.<br />

We can help with:<br />

• Moving to France or Spain<br />

• Setting up and running a business<br />

• Help with VISA, residency and<br />

work permits and taxes<br />

• Legal advice and Insurance<br />

• Healthcare advice<br />

*on purchase of a pack, valid till 16 September 2022<br />

50€* off<br />

with the<br />

code<br />

TGL05<strong>2023</strong>SM<br />

B +33 950 75 81 92 a +34 711 05 32 28 pleasehelp.eu k <br />

110 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 111

Your one stop shop for the finest quality<br />

food from Britain and Ireland.<br />



Quality Fresh Beef, Pork and Lamb, Cheeses, Clotted Cream,<br />

Fresh Cream, Pies, Sausages, Bacon, Pudding, Tea & Coffee, Sauces,<br />

Crisps & Chocolate, plus Vegetarian and Vegan products<br />

Free home delivery France, Belgium & Luxembourg<br />

baconbythebox.com<br />


with goats<br />

cheese<br />


500 g (scant 4 cups / 1 lb 2 oz) all- purpose<br />

(plain) flour (T55)<br />

300 g (1 ¼ cups / 10 ½ oz) water at<br />

20°C (68°F)<br />

100 g (scant ½ cup / 3 ½ oz) Liquid Levain<br />

(you can find the recipe here)<br />

5 g (1 ½ tsp) fresh yeast, crumbled<br />

10 g (2 tsp) Guérande sea salt<br />

30 g (2 tbsp / 1 oz) extra-virgin olive oil + extra<br />

for brushing<br />

100 g (scant ½ cup / 3 ½ oz) crème fraîche<br />

100 g (scant 1 cup / 3 ½ oz) grated<br />

Emmental cheese<br />

200 g (7 oz) goat cheese, sliced<br />

METHOD<br />

Serves 4<br />

Preparation time 15 min<br />

Resting time 3 h 15 min<br />

Baking time 18 min<br />

Put the flour, water, levain, yeast and salt into a<br />

stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. Mix and<br />

knead for 5 minutes on low speed, then for 7<br />

minutes on high speed. Add the olive oil and<br />

knead for another 3 minutes. Gather the dough<br />

into a ball, cover with a damp cloth and leave to<br />

rest for 2 hours at room temperature. Midway<br />

through the rest, deflate the dough by folding<br />

it in half. It will have increased in volume by the<br />

end of the resting time.<br />

On a floured work counter, divide the dough into<br />

four equal pieces. Working with one piece at a<br />

time, turn it around on the work counter, bring<br />

the edges in to the middle and press down. Turn<br />

it again and shape into a ball, tucking the seam<br />

underneath. Repeat with the other three pieces<br />

of dough, then cover them with a damp cloth<br />

and rest for 15 minutes.<br />

Use a rolling pin to roll each piece of dough into<br />

oval flatbreads, around 40 cm (16 inches) long<br />

and about 5 mm (¼ inch) thick. Spread one half<br />

of each flatbread with crème fraîche, leaving a<br />

2cm (¾-inch) border around the edge. Sprinkle<br />

with grated Emmental and top with slices of<br />

goat cheese.<br />

Use a dough cutter to make 3 wide slashes on<br />

the ungarnished half of each flatbread, then fold<br />

it over the other half. Seal all the edges. Place<br />

the fougasse on lightly oiled baking sheets.<br />

Cover with a damp cloth and prove (proof) for 1<br />

hour at room temperature.<br />

Place a baking pan on the lowest oven rack<br />

and preheat the oven to 235°C (455°F). Once<br />

the oven is hot, pour 50 ml (3 ½ tbsp / 1 ¾ fl oz)<br />

water into the hot baking pan. Put the fougasse<br />

and pan of water into the oven and bake for<br />

4 minutes. Lower the temperature to 220°C<br />

(425°F) and bake for another 14 minutes.<br />

Remove the fougasse from the oven, brush them<br />

lightly with olive oil and cool on a wire rack.<br />

112 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 113

Plaited (braided)<br />


Extracted from The Bread Book: 60 artisanal bread<br />

recipes from one of the world’s greatest bakers –<br />

French chef, master baker and best-selling author Éric<br />

Kayser. Published by Phaidon Press 2022.<br />

Photography © Massimo Pessina<br />

Éric Kayser comes from a long line of French bakers,<br />

and is the founder of the awardwinning<br />

international bakery Maison Kayser.<br />

Makes 3 brioches<br />

Preparation time 50 min<br />

Resting time 18 h<br />

Baking time 25 min<br />


3 loaf pans,<br />

25 x 11 cm (10 x 4¼ inches)<br />


600 g (4¼ cups / 1 lb 5 oz) cake (pastry) flour<br />

(T45/farine de gruau)<br />

11 g (2 tsp) fine salt<br />

22 g (generous 2 tbsp / ¾ oz)<br />

fresh yeast, crumbled<br />

85 g (scant 1/3 cup / 3 oz) water<br />

at 20°C (68°F)<br />

90 g (6 tbsp / 3¼ oz) full-fat (whole) milk<br />

5 eggs<br />

90 g (scant ½ cup / 3¼ oz)<br />

caster (superfine) sugar<br />

10 g (2 tsp) dark rum<br />

6 g (1 tsp) orange flower water<br />

6 g (1 tsp) vanilla extract<br />

140 g (scant 2/3 cup / 5 oz) butter, softened<br />

For the finishing<br />

1 egg, beaten, for glazing<br />

1 tbsp full-fat (whole) milk<br />

pinch of fine salt<br />

METHOD<br />

The previous day, mix 100 g (¾ cup/ 3 ½oz)<br />

of the flour with 2 g (1/3 tsp) of the salt in a<br />

bowl, using a whisk. In a small bowl, dissolve<br />

2 g (½ tsp) of the yeast in the water. Mix the<br />

dissolved yeast into the flour and salt mixture<br />

with a rubber spatula. Transfer the dough<br />

to a floured work counter and shape into<br />

a non-sticky ball. Put the dough into an<br />

airtight container with a lightly greased lid<br />

and refrigerate for at least 15 hours.<br />

On the day, combine the milk with the eggs,<br />

sugar, rum, orange flower water and vanilla<br />

extract in a stand mixer fitted with a dough<br />

hook. Mix on low speed, then crumble in<br />

the remaining yeast and add the rest of<br />

the flour and knead on low speed until<br />

all ingredients are incorporated. Add the<br />

remaining salt while kneading. Incorporate<br />

the fermented dough from the previous day<br />

and mix on medium speed for 15 minutes<br />

until the dough comes away from the sides<br />

of the bowl. Gradually add the butter and<br />

knead for 15 minutes on high speed, until<br />

the dough again comes away from the<br />

sides. The dough should be smooth and<br />

glossy. Transfer to a lightly floured bowl,<br />

cover with cling film (plastic wrap) in direct<br />

contact and leave to rise for 30 minutes at<br />

room temperature. The dough should only<br />

rise slightly. Refrigerate for between 2 hours<br />

and overnight.<br />

Preheat the oven to 30°C (86°F). On a<br />

floured work counter, divide the dough into<br />

nine pieces of equal weight (about 145 g /<br />

5 ¼ oz each). Roll them into uniform<br />

25–30-cm (10–12-inch) strips (a) (b) (c)<br />

(d) (e). Place three strips vertically and<br />

seal them together at one end. Then plait<br />

(braid) them together (f) (g). Seal the other<br />

end and tuck both ends under (h). Repeat<br />

the operation to make two more brioches.<br />

Transfer the brioches into greased loaf pans<br />

and brush them with eggwash made by<br />

beating the egg, milk and salt together. Turn<br />

off the oven and put the brioches inside to<br />

prove (proof) for 1 to 1½ hours.<br />

Remove the brioches and preheat the oven<br />

to 150°C (300°F). Glaze the brioches again<br />

with eggwash and bake for about<br />

25 minutes, keeping an eye on them.<br />

Remove the brioches from the oven, then<br />

cool on a wire rack.<br />

114 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 115

Scallop &<br />

vegetable<br />

‘hot-air<br />

balloons’ with<br />

champagne sauce<br />

Montgolfière de Saint-Jacques, petits légumes et sauce champagne<br />

Serves 4<br />

Active Time: 35 minutes<br />

Cooking Time: 15–20 minutes<br />

Chilling time: 20 minutes<br />

Freezing time: 15 minutes<br />


Fine-mesh sieve<br />

4 lion’s head (small, deep, ovenproof)<br />

soup bowls<br />


Scallop and vegetable filling<br />

3½ oz. (100 g) button mushrooms<br />

Butter<br />

Olive oil<br />

3 ½ oz. (100 g) broccoli<br />

3 oz. (80 g) celeriac<br />

3 oz. (80 g) green asparagus<br />

3 ½ oz. (100 g) baby carrots, tops on<br />

2 oz. (60 g) thin French green beans<br />

12 scallops (about 1 lb./480 g)<br />

Salt and freshly ground pepper<br />

Champagne sauce<br />

2 oz. (60 g) tomatoes<br />

3 ½ oz. (100 g) shallots<br />

1 tbsp (15 g) butter<br />

1 ½ tbsp (15 g) flour<br />

1 2⁄3 cups (400 ml) champagne<br />

Generous ¾ cup (200 ml) white chicken stock<br />

(fond blanc de volaille)<br />

¼ cup (1 ½ oz./40 g)<br />

crème fraiche<br />

To assemble<br />

9 oz. (250 g) quick puff pastry<br />

1 generous tbsp (12 g) toasted sesame seeds<br />

1 egg<br />

2 egg yolks<br />

To garnish (optional)<br />

Shaved white truffle<br />

METHOD<br />

Preparing the scallop and vegetable filling<br />

Wash and quarter the mushrooms and brown<br />

them in a skillet over medium-high heat with a<br />

little butter and olive oil. Season with salt and<br />

pepper. Wash the broccoli, remove the florets,<br />

and cut the most tender parts of the stalks into<br />

small dice. Peel the celeriac and cut into ½ ×<br />

1 ¼-in. (1 × 3-cm) sticks. Cut off the asparagus<br />

tips ¾ in. (2 cm) from the ends (reserve the<br />

tips for another use) and cut 1¼ in. (3 cm) off<br />

the bases (discard). Cut each remaining stalk<br />

into 4 diagonal pieces. Wash and scrub the<br />

carrots and cut off the tops, leaving ½ in. (1<br />

cm). Trim the ends off the green beans. Poach<br />

all the vegetables (except the mushrooms) for<br />

a few seconds in a large saucepan of boiling<br />

salted water and plunge into ice-cold water to<br />

stop the cooking. In a skillet with a little olive<br />

oil and butter, cook the vegetables separately<br />

over medium-high heat until lightly golden.<br />

Season with salt and pepper, then chill until<br />

assembling. In a clean skillet with a pat of<br />

butter, brown the scallops on one side over<br />

high heat for 1 minute, then place in the freezer<br />

for 15–20 minutes to prevent them from overcooking<br />

in the oven.<br />

Preparing the champagne sauce<br />

Wash and cut the tomatoes (skin on) into ½-in.<br />

(1-cm) dice. Peel and finely chop the shallots<br />

and cook in the butter over low heat until<br />

softened. Stir in the flour and tomatoes. Pour<br />

in the champagne and reduce by half. Add the<br />

stock and let cook for about 10 minutes, then<br />

stir in the crème fraîche and cook over low<br />

heat until the sauce coats the back of a spoon.<br />

Strain through the fine-mesh sieve into a bowl,<br />

pressing down to recover all the liquid.<br />

Assembling the “hot air balloons”<br />

Preheat the oven to 450°F (240°C/Gas<br />

Mark 8). Roll the pastry to a thickness of 1⁄16 in.<br />

(1.5 mm) and cut out 4 disks with a diameter<br />

about ¾ in. (2 cm) greater than that of the<br />

soup bowls. Divide the vegetables between<br />

the bowls and sprinkle with sesame seeds.<br />

Add 3 scallops and about ¼ cup (2 oz./60g)<br />

of champagne sauce to each bowl. Whisk<br />

together the egg and egg yolks to make an<br />

egg wash and brush around the edges of each<br />

pastry disk, making a ¾-in. (1.5-cm) border.<br />

Place the disks over the bowls with the egg<br />

wash side down. Gently press down around the<br />

edges to seal the pastry to the bowls. Brush<br />

the tops with egg wash, poke a small hole in<br />

the center of each one to let steam escape,<br />

and score decoratively with a fine-tipped knife.<br />

Place in the oven, reduce the temperature to<br />

430°F (220°C/Gas Mark 7), and bake for<br />

20 minutes, until the pastry is puffed and<br />

golden brown. Serve immediately, garnished<br />

with shaved white truffle, if you wish.<br />

Extracted from<br />

Charcuterie: Pâtés,<br />

Terrines, Savory Pies –<br />

Recipes and Techniques<br />

From the Ferrandi<br />

School of Culinary<br />

Arts by Ferrandi Paris<br />

(Flammarion, <strong>2023</strong>)<br />

Photography credit © Rina Nurra<br />

116 | The Good Life France The Good Life France | 117

might be same ad<br />

Last<br />

Word<br />

19 years ago this year, on a cold and sleety February morning, I boarded a ferry at<br />

Dover and watched the famous White Cliffs fade as I headed to France on a day trip<br />

with my dad and my husband. We were going to buy wine and cheese, have lunch<br />

and head back home with our booty.<br />

It didn’t quite work out as planned. We bought the wine and cheese. We couldn’t find<br />

anywhere open to have lunch as we left it too late, and we succumbed to a cup of<br />

coffee offered to us by a property agent who spotted not just our rather miserable<br />

faces peering in his window but also an opportunity! Despite my adamant assertion<br />

that 1. we didn’t want a house in France and 2. we couldn’t afford a house in France,<br />

he persuaded us (me) to look at his three cheapest properties. And somehow I fell<br />

in love with one of them despite the fact that frankly it was a hovel. I bought it there<br />

and then (it was very cheap, less than the price of one of Kim Kardashian’s designer<br />

handbags), though my dad said it was a ‘never ending job.’<br />

Well this year may be the year we finally finish renovating. Stage one. Dad was<br />

probably right. The house is now comfortable and I think, rather nice. We basically<br />

built a house within the shell of an old barn that was insulated with tons of a mix of<br />

muck, mud and straw which we spent many fun-filled days (not) removing. I’ve filled<br />

the house with mementoes of my travels around France and with animals – 4 dogs<br />

and 8 cats and occasionally a hedgehog called Charlie and a dove called Doris –<br />

though it being summer, they are outside now with the chickens, ducks and geese.<br />

Where I live in Pas de Calais, is very rural, very authentic, my dad used to say it<br />

was like going back 50 years in England. There are no shops, bars or cafés in my<br />

village, just 150 people – mostly farm workers – and 1000 cows in a very green<br />

corner of paradise.<br />

My 90-year-old neighbour Claudette has watched us toil on our house these past<br />

two decades, laying floors where there was once dirt, putting in windows where there<br />

were once holes and fixing a roof that you could once see the stars through.<br />

“A house is built of logs and stone, of tiles and posts and piers” she said to me<br />

recently, quoting her favourite author Victor Hugo. “A home is built of loving deeds<br />

that stand a thousand years…”<br />

Janine<br />

Janine Marsh lives in France with her husband and around 60 animals. Her books My Good Life<br />

in France, My Four Seasons in France and Toujours la France are available at Amazon and all<br />

good book shops. Her new book How to be French will be published in October <strong>2023</strong>.<br />

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118 | The Good Life France<br />

The Good Life France | 119


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